The article “Living in a Dream World: The Role of Daydreaming in Problem-Solving and Creativity” recently published in Scientific American Mind, explores both the positive functions of daydreams, as well as the hazards of getting too deeply immersed. A related article looks a great scientific achievments made while daydreaming, “Delivered in a Daydream: 7 Great Achievements That Arose from a Wandering Mind [Slide Show]” Finally, the first article mentions a website devoted to those with “maladaptive daydreaming” – Wild Minds – it has lots of ideas and discussion.
What is the difference between daydreaming and psychosis? Not too much it turns out – just mainly that the daydreamer keeps track of the fact that all the content is produced by one’s own mind, while the person likely to get diagnosed with psychosis usually has lost track of that at some point, or doesn’t want to believe that the content is from one’s own mind. Why might a person not want to think that a daydream is produced by one’s own mind? There are two likely reasons.
One is that the person may find that by imagining that the daydream is not a daydream, but is real, the person can get more deeply into it. Given that we are talking about people with a tendency to dream too intensely, this is just another way to up the intensity. Of course it also has real hazards!
Another reason is that the person may be having negative daydreams, and want to avoid or disown them in some way. When they intrude anyway, they seem to be coming from somewhere other than the “self.”
Of course, many people labeled “psychotic” do believe, or at least do believe a lot of the time, that the mental content they experience, be it voices or whatever, is coming from their own mind. So at that point, it really is just an intense involvement in daydreaming.
Just in my brief look at the Wild Minds website, it seems that a lot of the coping ideas also apply to working with voices and such. So it would be good to explore more the continuum between daydreaming and experience that gets called psychosis – this could help us learn how to moderate the experience so people can learn to take advantage of the positive aspects of it while minimizing the hazards.