96% of people daydream on a daily basis. Sometimes, to escape a rough day at work; sometimes to revisit happy times and sometimes just when you have free time at hand. It is always a pleasant experience. But did you know this seemingly innocent habit can take over the life of some people?Maladaptive daydreaming (MD) is a disorder where intricate daydreams and fantasies of a person take the place of real-life human interaction. It may sound simple but it is as complex as it gets. Dr Eli Somer recognized the disorder and coined the term in 2002. He explains that patients used daydreaming as a coping strategy and became dependent on it. It cut them from their lives and transported them to the world they had created on their own. Somer believes that the trigger for such mechanism results from trauma, abuse or the unpleasant environment. Maladaptive daydreaming is yet not recognized under psychiatric disorders.What are the symptoms and effects of maladaptive daydreaming?To say the least, people with MD lose chunks of their days and lives compulsively building and processing their dreams. MD stops people from functioning normally and they are labelled as unproductive. It hinders their growth and people often end up alone. What people lose through MD, often goes invisible. Friendships, motivation and any drive to pursue stuff in real life are neutralized by daydreaming and thus lost. MD is known to be fuelled by privacy and music acting as a trigger. Most of the people’s daydreaming is based on a single storyline which they continue and expand. The startling thing here is that people with MD can clearly distinguish between their dream plots and real-life events. This separates them from schizophrenics and psychotics. Common symptoms include:Extremely vibrant and indulging dreamsInescapable long daydreams, lasting for hoursInability to perform daily choresDaydreams naturally triggered by books, movies, music, etc.Acting out daydreams, making repetitive movements and/or making facial expressions Self-imposed isolation or needing privacy for compulsively daydreamingIrregular sleep or insomniaPeople with MD create their ideal worlds where they provide themselves what they lacked in their lives. They might accomplish their goals, have imaginary friends, fulfil their desires, etc. in these elaborate daydreams. In easier words, a person is mentally absent from his environment majority of the time.MD comes with a risk of anxiety disorders when due to addictive daydreaming; the sufferer’s life productivity becomes non-existent.How can it be diagnosed?Although there is no formal procedure to diagnose MD, a 14-point Maladaptive scale was developed to help a person know if they have abnormal daydreaming habits. It provided 5 key-notes to check MD:Subject matter and detailing of dreams Supposed benefits the person gains from their dreams How far daydreaming affects with ability to carry out daily tasksIntensity of compulsion to daydreamIntensity of disturbance caused by daydreamingWhat is the treatment for MD?As maladaptive dreaming is not yet classed under psychiatry disorders, there is no standard treatment. However, it can be managed. The first step is recognizing when your daydreams have gone too far to interfere with your life. Then the following techniques should be used to keep it in check: Identifying triggers: Once you catch yourself slipping into your fantasy world, rewind and see what caused it. It could be a sad lyric in the song you were listening or a bummer that led you to escape reality. As you keep identifying triggers, your brain will soon take note of that and next time you are about to escape, you’d be reminded of it.Seeing a Therapist: Maladaptive daydreaming is a coping mechanism. Techniques like Cognitive Behavioural therapy help to understand the underlying reasons and make people adopt healthier and positive coping strategies. Being aware of the symptoms: Check in with the symptom list and know when you are showing them. Being mentally aware of your condition goes a long way in avoiding it.There’s still a long way of research that needs to be put into MD. But there are many forums, groups and communities online dedicated to MD, which help a person, realize they are not alone. These groups offer support and help and a sufferer is advised to keep in touch with these. Some sources are mentalhealthforum.net and forums.psychcentral.com.