(ORDO NEWS) — According to a recent study, some people with ADHD, or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, are better off with a diagnosis of maladaptive daydreaming.
Daytime daydreaming is a normal occurrence when the mind is immersed in an imaginary environment. For most, this is a fun, brief distraction from the real world, but for others, the daydreaming can become overwhelming, even lasting for hours on end.
In fact, some people can spend up to half of their waking hours in their own inner world, which, as you can imagine, makes it difficult to participate in everyday life.
Maladaptive daytime daydreaming (MD) is not currently considered a separate mental disorder; instead, its characteristic effect on attention means that it is commonly lumped together as a symptom of disorders such as ADHD.
According to research, among people with ADHD, about 77 percent also have a diagnosis of ADHD. But the fact that these states intersect does not mean that they are one and the same. Psychologists have recently uncovered evidence that MD is actually a separate disorder.
ADHD is typically characterized by a “disrupted attentional system” that can lead to periods of hyperfocus and apparent inattention. Maladaptive daydreaming, on the other hand, is more like a behavioral addiction, pulling the mind into complex and vivid states of imagination.
Among a small group of 83 people with ADHD, the researchers found that just over 20 percent also met the criteria for ADHD; this is much less than the percentage of people with ADHD who also meet the criteria for ADHD.
This suggests that the two disorders are indeed different from each other.
“If we found symmetrically high rates of MD among adults with ADHD, it would be fair to argue that the new concept of MD is redundant, as it is almost equivalent to an already existing diagnosis of ADHD,” the authors explain.
“However, the asymmetry found in this study is consistent with our theoretical assertion that MD is an independent psychiatric phenomenon that often creates attention deficit as a side effect.”
Further research is needed to support the idea of MD as a separate psychiatric disorder, but the evidence from this small study suggests that MD is significantly different from typical ADHD.
On the questionnaires, participants who met the criteria for maladaptive daydreaming said they had difficulty giving their full attention to a task until it was completed, but not in the way that ADHD markers describe.
Instead, participants said they channel their daydreams themselves, immersing themselves in vivid and bizarre situations that make it difficult to focus on external tasks.
The loss of attention seemed to be secondary to their cravings for daydreams.
“We believe that the diagnosis of ADHD does not adequately describe the problem in such cases,” the authors conclude.
Supporting this hypothesis is the fact that participants who met the criteria for both MD and ADHD reported significantly higher levels of psychological distress than those who met only the ADHD criteria.
According to the authors, this suggests that excessive daydreaming may be associated with a desire to escape from depressive thoughts, low self-esteem, or loneliness.
This finding is important because if MD and ADHD have different mechanisms, then it is possible that they do not respond to the same interventions.
“If your ADHD is associated with a general wandering of the mind with constantly changing distractions (which is typical of typical ADHD), you may need different treatment than if you find yourself compulsively attracted to extended, narrative, vivid and highly emotional fantasies (typical of MD) “, psychologist Nirit Soffer-Dudek explained to PsyPost.
“If it’s the latter, we advise you to seek psychological help and introduce the doctor to the concept of MD, which has been actively studied in recent years, but still remains little known.”
Without a proper understanding of MD, it is not even clear how many people can suffer from this disorder.
It appears that during the COVID-19 lockdown, MD disorder has become more of a problem, adding weight to the idea that daydreaming is our mind’s way of coping with trauma, rather than just indulging in wandering thoughts.
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