People with inattentive ADHD are often called “daydreamers” and chided for getting lost in their thoughts. But sometimes a wandering ADHD mind is mistaken for maladaptive daydreaming (MD), a condition that involves a different form of inattention.

What Is Maladaptive Daydreaming?

People with maladaptive daydreaming have intentional, vivid, all-consuming daydreams that interfere with their daily functioning. Individuals with inattentive ADHD have trouble sustaining focus; they are easily distracted and forgetful. Because symptoms of inattentive ADHD and maladaptive daydreaming overlap, some patients may receive incorrect diagnoses, according to a study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychology.

The study found that 21% of 83 participants with ADHD diagnoses also met the diagnostic criteria for MD. “In some cases presenting with ADHD symptoms, maladaptive daydreaming may better explain the clinical picture” than would an ADHD diagnosis, the study suggested, adding that improper diagnosis may have serious treatment implications.

Maladaptive Daydreaming vs. Inattentive ADHD

People with inattentive ADHD and MD share these symptoms:

  • They get disproportionately upset by interruptions.
  • They are easily distracted and seem unaware of their surroundings.
  • They have trouble sleeping.

Below are more key similarities — and differences — between inattentive ADHD and maladaptive daydreaming.

Controlled Fantasy vs. Wandering Thoughts

Maladaptive Daydreaming: By engaging in purposeful, consuming daydreaming that lasts for hours on end, some individuals choose to become immersed and lost in their inner fantasy worlds. Many maladaptive daydreamers become addicted to the alternative realities they’ve created.

Inattentive ADHD: Mind wandering with ADHD is unintentional, scattered, and often allows for jumping from one idea or scenario to another.

Dissociation vs. Hyperfocus

Maladaptive Daydreaming: Dissociation means deliberately detaching from one’s surroundings and body to avoid experiencing them. The dissociative nature of MD can result in neglecting short- and long-term responsibilities.

Inattentive ADHD: In hyperfocus, individuals with ADHD become intensely focused on an interest or activity for hours at a time. This can look like dissociation and cause detachment from one’s surroundings. However, hyperfocus is usually prompted by external stimuli, such as a computer game or a new interest, and it is usually spontaneous and uncontrolled.

Overlapping Symptoms of Depression, Loneliness, and Low Self-Esteem

Maladaptive Daydreaming: Emotional distress may underlie MD, according to the research. “We do not yet have long-term longitudinal data on risk factors for maladaptive daydreaming, but there are definitely correlations with social anxiety. Many people with maladaptive daydreaming have described how it helps them escape from a harsh reality, trauma, depression, anxiety, and social anxiety,” wrote Soffer-Dudek.

Inattentive ADHD: People with both ADHD and MD were more likely to suffer from depression, loneliness, and low self-esteem, the study found. ADHD is more commonly a genetic condition and is not thought to be a direct result of trauma.

Neurofeedback Therapy at NHA

Here at Neurohealth Associates, we specialize in Neurofeedback therapy. Neurofeedback may be helpful for training your mind, especially if you are unsure about putting yourself or your child on medication. This easy, noninvasive therapy can painlessly improve your mental health condition and outlook on life. Schedule a consultation with NeuroHealth Associates today and find out how we can help you.

Full article posted by ADDitude Mag

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