Maladaptive daydreaming (MD) may be a better diagnosis for some people than ADHD, according to a new study by Ben-Gurion University of the Negev researchers, in collaboration with the University of Haifa. 

MD is a condition in which people slip into involved highly detailed and realistic daydreams that can last hours at the cost of normal functioning. It has not yet been recognized as a formal psychiatric syndrome.

Dr. Nirit Soffer-Dudek of the Consciousness and Psychopathology Laboratory in the BGU Department of Psychology is one of the foremost experts on the condition. She is hoping to get MD added to the next edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM VI), by promoting rigorous research on the subject.

“Some individuals who become addicted to their fanciful daydreams experience great difficulty in concentrating and focusing their attention on academic and vocational tasks, yet they find that an ADHD diagnosis and the subsequent treatment plan does not necessarily help them,” says Dr. Soffer-Dudek.

“Formally classifying MD as a mental disorder would enable psychological practitioners to better assist many of their patients,” she adds.

Previous studies had found high levels of ADHD in those presenting with MD, thereby raising the question of whether MD was separate from ADHD.

In the current study, published recently in theĀ Journal of Clinical Psychology, doctoral candidate Nitzan Theodor-Katz, together with Dr. Soffer-Dudek and their colleagues from the University of Haifa, assessed 83 adults diagnosed with ADHD for inattention symptoms, MD, depression, loneliness, and self-esteem.

About 20% of those who were diagnosed with ADHD met the proposed diagnostic criteria for MD, with significantly higher rates of depression, loneliness, and lowered self-esteem, compared to those with ADHD that did not meet criteria for MD.

“Our findings suggest that there is a subgroup of those diagnosed with ADHD who would benefit more from a diagnosis of MD,” says Dr. Soffer-Dudek.

Additional researchers include Prof. Eli Somer and Dr. Rinatya Maaravi Hesseg of the University of Haifa.