This study illuminates legitimization efforts in the discourse of individuals who suffer from excessive, uncontrolled daydreaming: a contested mental condition that has not yet been recognized by the medical establishment. It aims to explore the rhetorical maneuvers employed by these “Maladaptive Daydreamers” in 35 email exchanges with the second author and two petitions, submitted to the American Psychiatric Association and to the UK Parliament, with a demand for recognition. Our analysis, anchored theoretically and methodologically in Critical Discourse Analysis, identified several verbal strategies employed by the participants to persuade their interlocutors about the realness of their suffering. The main strategies were clustered into three dimensions: (1) professional—appealing to the audience’s professional identity as scientist-practitioner and presenting shared knowledge; (2) social—forming a joint consensus group, a coalition or a partnership; (3) psychological—appealing to the interlocutor’s emotions through gratitude, self-disclosure or humor. This bottom-up analysis, positions individuals’ claims as a starting point for knowledge-dissemination and institutional change and blurs the modern dichotomy between the objects and subjects of medical gaze.


Maladaptive Daydreaming, Medicalization, Discourse, Legitimization, Rhetoric

Author Bio(s)

Orit Bershtling, Ph.D., a social worker at the Ministry of Health, Israel. She is an adjunct lecturer at the School of Social Work, University of Haifa & Tel Aviv University, Israel. Correspondence regarding this article can be addressed directly to: o.bershtling@gmail.com.

Eli Somer, Ph.D., clinical psychologist, is former president of both the international and the European societies for trauma and dissociation. He is faculty at the School of Social Work and director, International Consortium for Maladaptive Daydreaming Research, University of Haifa, Israel. Correspondence regarding this article can also be addressed directly to: somer@research.haifa.ac.il.

Publication Date


Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 4.0 International License.





To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.