When real life becomes too difficult, I drift off to fantasies that some prestigious group will invite me to speak to them about my life. Then I deliver the whole speech in my head and an hour or two or three later, I return to reality.
Family: “I remember you in India when you had a dream you thought was real. You were in a room without windows and were sure a black man was looking in. You were so sure it was true (you were 3 at the time). You also used to tell me very vivid stories you had made up.”
There was no label for what I was experiencing until 2002, when Eli Somer, a professor at the University of Haifa in Israel, coined the phrase “maladaptive daydreaming.” He defines it as “extensive fantasy activity that replaces human interaction and/or interferes with academic, interpersonal, or vocational functioning.”
But most psychologists have never heard of maladaptive daydreaming, and it is not officially recognized as a disorder. Many scoff at the idea that a normal activity like fantasizing could cause such distress. So how can people who believe their daydreaming is out of control receive help? Is maladaptive daydreaming a syndrome in itself, or is it just one manifestation of another affliction? Where does it come from, and how can it be cured? Most of all, how can the syndrome become better known so excessive fantasizers don’t feel like I did, the only person in the world to spend as much time as possible in my imaginary world?