Is there a reason for excessive daydreaming

Escape into the fantasy worldMaladaptives Daydreaming: If dream to Addiction becomes

Sometimes Lena just sits there for hours and stares into nothing. Sometimes she talks to herself, laughs or cries. Lena suffers from maladaptive daydreams. For a long time they determined their lives.

Since childhood, Lena has suffered from maladaptive daydreams, which means that she is addicted to taking refuge in her fantasy worlds during the day and forgetting everyday life in the process. In the past, it went so far that she could no longer get her real life in order. Meanwhile, Lena has a better grip on her daydreams.

The phenomenon of maladaptive daydreaming has so far been little researched and rarely can those affected talk about it as openly as 23-year-old Lena Anderl from Vienna.

Lena notices that others also suffer from daydreams

Lena actually has a YouTube channel where she talks about her eating disorders. When she published a video about her daydreams on the side, the feedback in the comment columns was great. Many were relieved not to be alone with this problem. Lena also realized that she is not the only one and need not be ashamed of it.

"Before I found out that it has a name, that it is not something that I have exclusive, I was just embarrassed. Because I thought: You are an adult and you still live halfway in a fantasy world."
Lena Anderl, sufferer of maladaptive daydreams

When Lena was young, she sometimes plunged into her fantasy world for up to seven hours. Over the years, more and more complex worlds with very different characters have emerged in her head, she says. Sometimes the worlds are very imaginative, sometimes real acquaintances appear in them, they are very different, says Lena.

"Sometimes there are very fantastic stories, sometimes people from my environment also appear in them, it is very different."
Lena Anderl, sufferer of maladaptive daydreams

It is difficult for her to describe the daydreams properly. Mainly because they are very personal. Something that is only hers.

Many of those affected share their daydreams in internet forums. Some have superpowers in it, are famous or dream of a perfect family that they may never have had in real life. Others have mostly erotic daydreams. Many are triggered by car trips, music or jogging. Lena mainly slips into her fantasy world when she is bored or when she is stressed.

Escape from emotional pain

Eli Somer, a former psychology professor at Haifa University, estimates that around one in 100 people has maladaptive daydreaming. When he started doing research on the subject twenty years ago, he was one of the first. To this day there are still many unanswered questions.

It is clear to him: some have the ability to create an inner world that feels real. Few of them would really get addicted to it. Those who suffer from emotional pain are particularly susceptible to this. In their daydreams, they could escape their pain and traumatic memories, explains Eli Somer.

"Those who suffer emotionally, would benefit most to distract from their emotional pain or - for example - distract from painful traumatic memories."
Eli Somer, former Professor of Psychology at Haifa University

For Eli Somer, maladaptive daydreaming goes in the direction of behavioral addiction, similar to shopping or gambling. Daydreaming becomes problematic when those affected no longer have their life under control, miss important appointments or prefer to stay at home than do the things that would really do them good. Many could even sleep worse because of their daydreams.

Help through psychotherapy and mindfulness

On the one hand, psychotherapy can help to get maladaptive daydreaming under control. There it can be clarified what those affected are fleeing from. In addition, those affected should do things that are difficult to daydream about. Eli Somer advises: meet friends or at least talk to them on the phone.

"Surround yourself with people. Pick up the phone, call a friend. These are examples, people can do to prevent themselves to drifting away into their fantasy world."
Eli Somer, former Professor of Psychology at Haifa University

Daydreams are powerful. They literally suck in those affected, says the scientist Eli Somer. Therefore, mindfulness exercises such as meditation or focusing on your own breath can also help.

Lena used scented oils or tiger balm, for example, and hedgehog balls would also help you feel yourself better again, she says. Your absolute secret: sour candy like Centershocks.

"For example, I use scented oils, tiger balm to sniff on, the smell is very sharp, hedgehog balls also help. My skill for pretty much everything is center shocks, sour candy. Anything that I feel very much helps in any case."
Lena Anderl, sufferer of maladaptive daydreams

Daydreams as a source of ideas

For Lena, her daydreams are no longer just a bad habit, but also a source of inspiration for her YouTube channel. She got a lot of ideas from her daydreams. You just have to be careful that this source does not flood everything else.

"I have the feeling that it is already a source of creativity, I just have to see that the source does not go over and everything floods."
Lena Anderl, sufferer of maladaptive daydreams

Lena still dreams two hours a day on average. She thinks that's okay. So getting your daydreams under control can work.