The Differential Emotional Processing Theory of Maladaptive Daydreaming

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

1591 Downloads (Pure)



This thesis presents an original contribution to knowledge in the form of the Differential Emotional Processing Theory of Maladaptive Daydreaming. This theory provides new theoretical understanding of the maladaptive daydreaming experience. maladaptive daydreaming is a widely researched topic, but research into daydreaming, that is not maladaptive, but absorptive and vividly experienced, is newly emerging, with a need for more research to be conducted. Uncertainty is evident in how to theoretically explain maladaptive daydreaming beyond psychopathological suggestions. A constructivist grounded theory methodology enabled the researcher and 16 participants to co-construct a theory that provides a theoretical understanding of maladaptive daydreaming. In line with human research requirements, ethical approval was obtained from the Charles Sturt University Human Research Ethics Board (study one: case studies approval number: H17118) and (study two: forum approval number: H18078). The research data was derived from two research stages. These were two case study interviews and an online forum that involved 16 adult participants. Extensive coding was carried out across both research stages involving memo writing and a simultaneous literature review, along with an updated literature review in 2019 to 2022. The theory presented in this thesis relates to maladaptive daydreaming, positing that maladaptive daydreaming is one pathway of a wider construct ‘absorptive daydreaming’, with features that are maladaptive, whilst the other pathway is one that relates to emotional growth that is adaptive, through emotional processing factors. Key contributions of this thesis include: a move towards seeing maladaptive daydreaming as a potential emotional processing mechanism; ideas for meeting emotional processing needs in other ways than maladaptive daydreaming; and, moving treatment towards emotional processing rather than focusing on psychopathology. In conclusion, this thesis presents the first constructed grounded theory of maladaptive daydreaming. The theory provides a new theoretical understanding that may be able to be tested and extended into other populations in order to develop interventions that may assist the worldwide maladaptive daydreaming community. This thesis’s theory of maladaptive daydreaming and the wider construct of ‘absorptive daydreaming’ suggests that maladaptive daydreaming research would benefit from adopting broader understandings of maladaptive daydreaming, to include further areas of daydreaming experience, such as immersive daydreaming, which may be the emotional growth pathway within the current theory, that was found within this current study.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • Charles Sturt University
  • Hodgins, Gene, Principal Supervisor
  • Gunaratne, Charini, Co-Supervisor, External person
  • Hogg, Rachel, Co-Supervisor
  • Bhanugopan, Ramudu , Principal Supervisor
Award date11 Aug 2022
Place of PublicationAustralia
Publication statusPublished - 2022


Dive into the research topics of 'The Differential Emotional Processing Theory of Maladaptive Daydreaming'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this