Sadly, at this point in time, there are no solid, evidence-based ways to treat maladaptive daydreaming—largely because it is such an obscure condition. We only have ideas and anecdotes generated from people like me, so it might take trial and error to figure out what works best for you. But here are some ideas—curated from the internet and my own experiences:
Find a therapist who understands.
Some maladaptive daydreamers who try to stop go through withdrawal. I’ve been there, and it’s not fun. When you take your foot out of the idyllic world and plant it firmly in reality…well, reality has a way of crashing down around you. You’re suddenly facing a world you were only half living in before, as well as problems you were able to escape by disappearing into your mind. As a result, you may feel depressed, anxious, empty, or a whole other slew of emotions.
That being said, seeing a therapist regularly while you are trying to sever the ties may be helpful, especially if the withdrawal is severe and very hard for you to deal with. Make sure you find someone who understands why you need to reduce your daydreaming, too—telling them it’s an addiction may be the most effective way to explain it, especially if they pull the “Well, everyone daydreams!” card. If they still don’t get it, keep looking until you find someone who does.
A therapist can also help you identify and tackle the root problem, if you have one—that’s the underlying reason you obsessively daydream in the first place. Loneliness and low self-esteem are good examples of root problems.
Find an effective distraction.
Okay, admittedly this one is hard, especially since many maladaptive daydreamers are “triggered” by so many things. I found watching YouTube videos—particularly segments of Whose Line Is It Anyway?—to be a helpful distraction. Around that time, I also learned to make paper cranes and would often fold them while watching these videos. There was no wiggle room left in my mind to escape into my fantasies. It can be helpful to pull out this distraction at times you are particularly vulnerable, too—for me, that meant dimming my computer screen and listening to these YouTube videos while I fell asleep, too. Not the most healthy habit, no, but when push comes to shove…
Channel your creative energy into something else.
Some have found relief from maladaptive daydreaming through other creative outlets, such as drawing, acting, and writing. Would your dream world make an amazing book or fanfic? Write it down! Or are you more like me—do you find that your daydream world is so intensely personal that it can’t exist anywhere outside your head, not even in a journal for your eyes only? No problem—write or draw something totally unrelated! Or pick up another creative hobby that interests you. You don’t have to be good at any of these things; the simple act of creating allows you to direct your brimming creative energy into something more constructive.
Identify and avoid triggers.
What things or situations are most likely to make you daydream? For example, my triggers have been certain songs, images, TV shows, movies, or even states of being—like boredom or just about any lapse of unoccupied attention, as well as conflict. Whatever the case, figure out what is most likely to make you daydream and do what you can to cut it out of your life. This is another reason why it’s a good idea to make sure you stay busy.
Join a support group.
Whether online or in-person, a support group can be helpful in that it’s filled with people who have been there, understand what you’re going through, and can offer help and suggestions.
Work on the issue when life is busy.
The first time I tried to give up daydreaming cold turkey, it was during a summer break when I was in high school. Worst. Idea. Ever. I managed it for a while, but withdrawal made it difficult. You may find it easier to give it up when you’re in school or working regularly, when you already have fewer opportunities to exist inside your head and fantasies.
Find an effective medication.
Some, myself included, have found some relief from this compulsive tendency through medications used to treat symptoms of OCD, ADHD, anxiety, or even psychosis. While I didn’t go on my medication (an SSRI) specifically to help with maladaptive daydreaming, I noticed a significant lessening of my need to engage in my fantasies when I started taking it. Of course, this solution is not right for everyone, and you should definitely talk to a doctor or psychiatrist before trying this out. But it is an option.