Some people with ADHD may actually have a mental waking dream disorder

BE’ER SHEVA, Israel — Could daydreaming actually be a mental disorder? A new study reveals that some people dream to such an extent that it interferes with their ability to function in the real world. Researchers in Israel say these patients are often diagnosed with ADHD, but they believe maladaptive daydreaming (MD) should be their own medical condition.

The study authors explain that people with MD slip into very detailed and realistic daydreams. They can last for hours and prevent people from paying attention to their work or study in class. Despite all this, MD is not a formal psychiatric syndrome.

“Some people who become addicted to their fanciful daydreams have great difficulty concentrating and focusing their attention on school and work-related tasks, but they find that an ADHD diagnosis and subsequent treatment plan does not necessarily help them. Formally classifying DM as a mental disorder would allow psychology practitioners to better help many of their patients,” Dr. Nirit Soffer-Dudek of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev said in a statement.

MD patients have more mental health problems

Dr. Soffer-Dudek hopes officials will add MD to the next edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. To convince them, the researchers looked at 83 adults with ADHD, looking at each person’s symptoms of inattention, depression, loneliness and DM.

The results show that 20% of the participants met the proposed criteria for a diagnosis of maladaptive daydreaming. Additionally, these patients also had significantly higher levels of depression, loneliness, and self-esteem than ADHD participants who did not meet the standards for an MD diagnosis.

“Our results suggest that there is a subset of people diagnosed with ADHD who would benefit more from a diagnosis of DM,” Dr. Soffer-Dudek concludes.

“MD has unique clinical characteristics that are distinct from ADHD. We suggest that in some cases presenting with ADHD symptoms, an MD conceptualization may better explain the clinical picture,” the study authors write in the Journal of Clinical Psychology.

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