ADHD is known to affect people who spend hours immersed in incredibly complex and realistic daydreams. This is something that Israeli researcher wants to change in order to make their lives easier.
Daydreaming is seen to be a calm, even mystical period when good ideas and pleasant fantasies flow freely. Many people, however, spend significant periods of time immersed in these dreams, which can have an impact on their work performance and social interactions. These individuals are now assumed to have ADHD, but the truth is that their illness is more complicated.
Maladaptive daydreaming occurs when people fall into extraordinarily vivid and realistic daydreams that linger for hours at a time, obstructing regular functioning, making real-world connections, doing chores, and achieving life goals. Dr. Nirit Soffer-Dudek, of the Laboratory of Consciousness and Psychopathology at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev’s Department of Psychology and a worldwide expert on the issue, believes that “maladaptive daydreaming” may be a better diagnosis in many cases than ADHD.
Despite the fact that “maladaptive daydreaming” is not yet officially recognized as a psychiatric syndrome, Soffer-Dudek is working to raise awareness of the term and have it included in the next edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM 6) as a diagnosis that requires further investigation. The findings of her lab’s research, conducted in partnership with the University of Haifa, were just accepted for publication Journal of Clinical Psychology.
“Some people who are addicted to their imaginary daydreams have great difficulty concentrating and focusing on academic and occupational tasks,” Soffer-Dudek explained. She went on to say that these folks often find that an ADHD diagnosis without a treatment plan does not benefit them. “An official classification of ‘maladaptive daydreaming’ as a mental disorder will allow clinicians to better assist many of their patients,” she added.
Previous research has indicated high rates of ADHD in those who claim to suffer from maladaptive daydreaming, raising the question of whether the new diagnosis is truly distinct from ADHD. Nitzan Theodor-Katz, a doctorate student at the University of Haifa, evaluated 83 adults diagnosed with ADHD, along with Dr. Soffer-Dudek and colleagues. Participants who met the study’s maladaptive daydreaming threshold score (about half of the total subjects) were invited to take part in a structured diagnostic interview.
About 20 percent of the study participants fit the criteria for maladaptive daydreaming, which has distinct clinical characteristics, while the remaining 80 percent had simply ADHD with normative daydreaming.
Even though the two groups had the same severity of attention deficit disorder, individuals with maladaptive daydreaming had considerably higher rates of sadness, loneliness, and low self-esteem than those with ADHD who did not fit the criteria for maladaptive daydreaming.
“Our findings suggest that there’s a subset of people diagnosed with ADHD who may benefit more from a diagnosis of ‘maladaptive daydreaming’. ADHD seems to be only a small part of a more general problem they have,” she came to a conclusion.
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