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Dreaming is associated with children. But how does maladaptive daydreaming affect childhood? Let’s find out.

Head above the clouds and in cloud nine are some of the phrases we use for children and adults who are constantly engaged in a dream world. Also known as daydreaming.

How interesting the world of dreams would be to keep us hooked into the illusion of a world. The fantastical elements that are not present in reality influence and stimulate our minds to an extent where we do not care about their inexistence anymore.

Most importantly, this dream world consists of many wild and creative ideas that enhance our intelligence. As a result, daydreaming is beneficial for children and their development.

However, the world is not a bed of roses, and one has to come to terms with the practical aspects of life. Besides, daydreaming isn’t going to perform tasks for us.

But, while daydreaming is suitable for children, unhealthy daydreaming can create a lot of problems in their growing years. Especially when their loved ones do not understand what they are going through.

This unhealthy version of daydreaming is called maladaptive daydreaming. The name sounds a lot similar to one of my recent articles on maladaptive perfectionism. If you haven’t read it till now, you can learn about it here.

Maladaptive daydreaming is a little different than normal daydreaming. We are completely lost in our world without focusing on the present. It becomes a bane when it goes out of control.

So, let us find out what it is and how maladaptive daydreaming affects childhood.

What is the psychology behind maladaptive daydreaming?

Maladaptive daydreaming is one of the popular subjects in the field of psychology that has been relevant for many years. However, it is still untreatable.

As for now, the tendency to always stay in your head no matter the circumstances has its perils. But, what we need to know is the psychology behind maladaptive daydreaming.

We drift into dreaming when we are sleeping or feeling bored with the current situation. In other words, it is more of a coping mechanism where we try to escape reality to imagine an illusionary world full of ideas and possibilities.

A girl holding a rabbit representing how maladaptive daydreaming affects childhood.
Photo by Anastasiya Gepp from Pexels

As a result, we are interested in exploring it due to its interesting and captivating nature compared to our mundane reality. Hence, our spontaneous, reflective, and scatterbrained nature helps us engage in daydreaming in the first place, let alone maladaptive daydreaming.

So, this is the psychology behind normal daydreaming. For maladaptive daydreaming, the sources are different. It is believed that maladaptive daydreaming arises from the experiences of trauma, abuse, and violence.

In other words, it is a coping mechanism to deal with disappointment and fear, leading to the creation of an illusion contradicting the harsh reality.

So, let’s find out how trauma affects maladaptive daydreaming.

How does trauma affect maladaptive daydreaming?

Often, children in abusive environments experience violence, neglect, and torture at the hands of parents and guardians. These children spend most of their time in fear and sadness due to the maltreatment of less empathetic couples.

Now, what happens is that these little kids try to envision an ideal world full of love and affection that they desire from the world. But, they feel misunderstood every time people interact with them.

To escape the effects of violence and trauma, they slowly route to this imaginary world. They withdraw themselves completely from the effects of maltreatment and begin to daydream regularly.

does maladaptive daydreaming affects childhood?

To a certain extent, daydreaming helps them self-reflect to identify their needs and desires. However, this self-reflection is bad for them as it brings a lot of false self-awareness leading to a distorted identity.

Over time, the daydreaming tendency becomes a regular thing and the child becomes addicted to his imaginary world. It leads to a loss of concentration, attention, and awareness of the things going on around them.

They begin to identify themselves with their dreams which do not provide them with anything useful except for giving them a way to escape.

The unhealthy addiction to dreaming is the root cause of maladaptive daydreaming. The negative experiences of abuse, trauma, and violence all lead to this condition which is still untreatable.

Constant maladaptive daydreaming also leads to passivity in children failing to perform tasks in reality.

Now, let us discuss how maladaptive daydreaming affects childhood.

How does Maladaptive Daydreaming Affect Childhood?

In the above section, we discussed how negative experiences, such as trauma or violence, affect children in their growing years to sow the seeds of maladaptive daydreaming.

Although the unhealthy side of daydreaming is evident to us, we still need to know how maladaptive daydreaming affects our childhood.

So, here are 6 ways maladaptive daydreaming affects childhood.

Maladaptive daydreaming

1. Leads to a withdrawn and reserved personality:

Children suffering from maladaptive daydreaming do not enjoy living in the real world. They crave excitement and pleasure in life, which leads them to daydream frequently in a day.

It makes them highly introverted to engage with people and society. As a result, they adopt a more withdrawn and reserved personality that seldom interacts with the external environment.

Therefore, they shut themselves completely from the world and even cut out their loved ones from their lives.

2. Leads to laziness and procrastination:

Maladaptive daydreaming can cause children to become very lazy and procrastinate. The reason behind this is that they are constantly inspired by their dream world but do not seek inspiration to make them true in reality

It also makes them very self-absorbed and moody without even realizing that their laziness negatively affects many things. They put off the tasks to deal with them later and never get back to routine.

As a result, they waste a lot of time daydreaming to focus on the tasks stockpiled on their table.

3. Leads to ignorance and self-neglect:

Daydreaming is highly subjective and emphasizes the self and the relation between dreams. That is why it keeps us occupied for a long period.

However, it is ironic that maladaptive daydreaming also leads to ignorance and self-neglect. The tendency to remain in this world leads to terrible circumstances, where children forget to take care of themselves and ignore the important people around them.

As a result, they aren’t affected by ignorance and prefer to be in the company of dreams than friends.

4. Makes us incapable of dealing with practical tasks:

Practicality is the reality of life. If we are not practical, we can never understand our ambitions and desires in life. In the case of children suffering from maladaptive daydreaming, the situation becomes worse when it is difficult for them to deal with regular or mundane tasks.

For instance, they do not follow a schedule or routine as they do not like to fit in with others. Their carefree and independent attitude refrains them from confining themselves to the constraints of society.

5. Leads to problems in concentrating on a task:

Generally, the inability to concentrate is common in highly creative children who have problems paying attention to a specific task. 

However, maladaptive daydreaming is also a result of a highly creative mind that seeks the exploration of ideas.

As a result, such children have problems concentrating on a specific task. Some of them might also have been diagnosed with disorders such as ADHD, BPD, etc.

6. Makes us incapable of facing hardships:

No matter how weird it is, in the end, it is still a coping mechanism aimed at escaping challenging situations rather than facing them. Many children with maladaptive daydreaming are too timid to confront the situation head-on.

As a result, they try to prevent as much trouble as possible for the sake of self-conservation. Moreover, they do not stand for anyone else due to their disregard for other problems.

Final Words:

To sum up, maladaptive daydreaming is a bit difficult to deal with. Especially for children who are highly imaginative and creative. Besides, the constant internal stimulation from dreams results in unnecessary addictive traits.

Nevertheless, this unhealthy tendency can be addressed by therapy and psychology to improve the state of a maladaptive daydreamer.

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