Maladaptive daydreaming: A shortened assessment measure and its mental health correlates in a large unites states sample

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Background and aims: Maladaptive Daydreaming (MD) is a suggested syndrome where individuals addictively engage in fanciful, narrative and emotional daydreaming for hours on end, often relying on stereotypical movements and music to facilitate the absorbed state. Many individuals suffering from MD to the point of clinically significant distress and functional impairment have advocated for its medicalization as a disorder. Maladaptive daydreamers exhibit high rates of psychopathology, but most studies were biased by self-selection. We developed a brief measure for efficient assessment of suspected MD and then administered it in a large non-selected US sample to gauge the significance of MD for public mental health. Methods: Two previous datasets were utilized to develop the 5-item measure, labeled the Maladaptive Daydreaming Short Form (MD-SF5). Then, a large survey was conducted using the Qualtrics panel, administering the MD-SF5 alongside several validated measures of mental health to a general sample of panelists (N = 2512, 84.6% females, age M = 39.74, SD = 18.53, Race/Ethnicity: 66.3% White, 14.7% Black, 9.3% Hispanic, and 9.7% Other). Results: The MD-SF5 showed good to excellent agreement with the existing measure. Generally, the new sample had high psychopathology rates. Suspected MD was associated with psychological distress, loneliness, psychotic experiences, heavy drinking, and suicidality. Notably, even after controlling for psychological distress, suspected maladaptive daydreamers were more than twice as likely to have recently attempted suicide (Odds Ratio = 2.44, 95% CI [1.44, 4.16], Wald = 10.86, p = .001). Discussion and conclusions: MD harbors public health significance and can be screened for with a short self-report tool. Thus, MD should be addressed by mental health practitioners.

Original languageEnglish
Article number152441
JournalComprehensive Psychiatry
StatePublished - 1 Feb 2024


  • Maladaptive daydreaming
  • behavioral addiction
  • functional impairment
  • mental health
  • psychotic experiences
  • suicidality

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Clinical Psychology


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