Maladaptive Daydreaming in an Adult Italian Population During the COVID-19 Lockdown

Alessandro Musetti, Christian Franceschini, Luca Pingani, Maria Francesca Freda, Emanuela Saita, Elena Vegni, Corrado Zenesini, Maria Catena Quattropani, Vittorio Lenzo, Giorgia Margherita, Daniela Lemmo, Paola Corsano, Lidia Borghi, Roberto Cattivelli, Giuseppe Plazzi, Gianluca Castelnuovo, Eli Somer, Adriano Schimmenti

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


During the COVID-19 outbreak, individuals with or without mental disorders may resort to dysfunctional psychological strategies that could trigger or heighten their emotional distress. The current study aims to explore the links between maladaptive daydreaming (MD, i.e., a compulsive fantasy activity associated with distress and psychological impairment), psychological symptoms of depression, anxiety, and negative stress, and COVID-19-related variables, such as changes in face-to-face and online relationships, during the COVID-19 lockdown in Italy. A total of 6,277 Italian adults completed an online survey, including socio-demographic variables, COVID-19 related information, the 16-item Maladaptive Daydreaming Scale (MDS-16), and Depression, Anxiety, and Stress Scales-21 Items (DASS-21). Based on an empirically derived cut-off score, 1,082 participants (17.2%) were identified as probable maladaptive daydreamers (MDers). A binary logistic regression revealed that compared to controls, probable MDers reported that during the COVID-19 lockdown they experienced higher levels of anxiety and depression, decreased online social relationships, and, surprisingly, stable or increased face-to-face social relationships. Given the peculiar characteristics of the pandemic context, these findings suggest that the exposure to the risk of contagion had probably exacerbated the tendency of probable MDers to lock themselves inside their mental fantasy worlds, which in turn may have contributed to further estrangement from online social relationships and support, thus worsening their emotional distress.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-10
Number of pages10
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • COVID-19
  • daydreaming


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