When is maladaptive daydreaming likely?

Part of what makes maladaptive daydreaming so difficult to overcome is that engaging in maladaptive daydreaming is never an active act, it's a passive act. 

Think about how your maladaptive daydreaming started? Can you remember it? Can you put an exact time and place when you went from having traditional daydreams to those that are maladaptive?

Chances are you can't put an exact time and date on it. In fact, chances are you don't even know the month in which you began to have maladaptive daydreams.

What happens for the vast majority of people is that they slowly develop maladaptive daydreams and then overtime they get more and more intense and vivid to the point you realize that these daydreams are different somehow and in someway.

Then, once you realized that you were engaging in maladaptive daydreaming, the problem becomes how do you stop it? Why I've written extensively on how to do that, one of the hardest things to do is to recognize when you're drifting into maladaptive daydreaming.

We're Always In Our Own Heads

Some people, usually extroverts, live lives in which they are always outside of their own head. In fact, they really don't like having deep internal thoughts or dialogues with themselves. 

Instead, whenever they get bored they retreat into finding someone to text, call, or interact with in order to not have to deal with themselves.

The vast majority of maladaptive daydreamers are the exact opposite. They're introverts who are always inside their own heads; always thinking to themselves, having internal dialogues, and daydreaming.

No matter how well you've studied the techniques for getting rid of your maladaptive daydreams, you still need to know when to apply them (as most of the techniques I discuss require you to actively apply them.

The issue is that just like your maladaptive daydreams developed without you ever realizing that they were, you enter into maladaptive daydreams every day almost effortlessly. It's an entirely passive process in which you don't even realize you are beginning to drift into your maladaptive daydreams.

Spotting Your Drift

One critical thing you should be doing is starting a diary or journal in which you try to pinpoint when you begin to drift into your maladaptive daydreams.

This can often be helped by doing the maladaptive daydreaming test as some of your answers may reveal when you are most liable to fall into this state.

For example, maladaptive daydreaming is generally most likely to occur when:

  • You feel you are under stress
  • You feel higher levels of anxiety
  • You are procrastinating on something
  • You are tired and about to fall asleep
  • You don't have an immediate task in front of you

Because maladaptive daydreaming is so passive, you often can't stop yourself from falling into your daydreams. Instead, you want to preempt every falling into your maladaptive daydreams by figuring out when they are most likely to occur.

So when you are tired and in bed, say to yourself that you realize you are vulnerable at present. This is one of those periods in which you may fall into your maladaptive daydreams. So try to think about something else - something in the news, in sports, in pop culture - to distract yourself.

For many people - although this isn't everyone's cup of tea - mediating or breathing deeply can be of great help during these periods. Both mediation and deep breathing help to clear the mind and forget whatever was in front of you.

If your maladaptive daydreams during these vulnerable periods is like a fire not quite fully roaring, mediation can be a bucket of cold water thrown over top of it.

Practice Forgiveness and Try Again

One thing I kept reiterating in my book (How to Stop Maladaptive Daydreaming) is that you need to always stand ready to forgive yourself when you engage in maladaptive daydreaming.

Unlike things like consuming alcohol or drugs - where you actively have to make the decision to take them - since maladaptive daydreams are all in your mind it can be very hard to prevent yourself from engaging in them.

Instead, the best you can do is learn tricks for stopping them, make your maladaptive daydreams less appealing, and recognize when you're vulnerable for falling into them.

When you do all of a sudden engage in maladaptive daydreams practice forgiveness. Don't lambast yourself, don't engage in negative self talk, just recognize that you have many more possibilities in the future to stop your maladaptive daydreams. Just because you failed once doesn't mean you can't succeed the next time. 

Teach every time you've noticed yourself engaging in MD as a learning opportunity as well. What was your environment like when you began doing it and what was your mental state?

Write this down in your journal or diary. This way you have one more data point illustrating when you are most vulnerable to engage in maladaptive daydreaming.


Stopping maladaptive daydreaming is never an easy task. This is because of how fundamentally passive maladaptive daydreaming is, as opposed to the more active bad habits many people engage in (like eating junk food, drinking too much, etc.).

One thing you can begin doing immediately is trying to figure out when you are most likely to engage in maladaptive daydreaming. This can be accomplished relatively easily by just writing down what your surroundings were and how you felt when you last drifted into maladaptive daydreaming.

Once you do this a number of times you'll begin to notice that you only engage in maladaptive daydreaming when you're in certain moods or in certain situations. Armed with this knowledge, you can then begin to focus your mind when you find yourself in these moods or situations and be aware that you are likely to start maladaptive daydreaming (thus preventing yourself from doing so).

Stopping maladaptive daydreaming necessitates that you're armed with the right tricks, tools, and strategies. One of these strategies is just being able to recognize when you're about to enter a maladaptive daydream instead of passively drifting into one.

As always, I wish you nothing but the very best luck in your journey.

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