What Mental Illness Does Walter Mitty Have? Unveiling the Mind of a Daydreamer

what mental illness does walter mitty have

Unveiling the Mind of a Daydreamer: What Mental Illness Does Walter Mitty Have?

Walter Mitty, a fictional character created by James Thurber, is known for his vivid daydreams and escapades into a world of fantasy. While his daydreaming tendencies may seem harmless and entertaining, it raises the question of whether there is an underlying mental illness behind his constant need for escapism.

Although Walter Mitty’s condition is never explicitly diagnosed in Thurber’s original short story, “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty,” his behavior and characteristics align with a mental health disorder known as Maladaptive Daydreaming.

Maladaptive Daydreaming:

Maladaptive Daydreaming is a psychological condition characterized by excessive daydreaming that often interferes with a person’s daily functioning. Individuals with this disorder may spend hours lost in their own imaginative worlds, often to the detriment of their real-life responsibilities and relationships.

Signs and Symptoms:

1. Intense daydreaming episodes: People with Maladaptive Daydreaming often experience vivid and immersive daydreams that feel more real than their actual surroundings. These daydreams can be triggered by external stimuli or internal thoughts and can last for extended periods.

2. Difficulty concentrating: Individuals with this disorder may find it challenging to stay focused on tasks or conversations, as their minds frequently wander off into daydreams.

3. Neglecting real-life responsibilities: Maladaptive daydreamers may struggle to fulfill their obligations at work, school, or home due to their preoccupation with daydreaming.

4. Social isolation: Excessive daydreaming can lead to social withdrawal, as individuals may prefer the company of their fantasies over real-life interactions.

5. Emotional distress: Maladaptive daydreaming can cause feelings of guilt, shame, or frustration, as individuals may recognize that their daydreaming is interfering with their lives.

Understanding Walter Mitty:

Walter Mitty’s character exhibits many of the signs and symptoms associated with Maladaptive Daydreaming. His constant need for escapism suggests a deep dissatisfaction with his real-life circumstances and a desire to retreat into a world where he can be the hero of his own story.

Throughout the story, Mitty’s daydreams serve as a coping mechanism for his mundane and unsatisfying life. They provide him with a sense of control, adventure, and excitement that he lacks in reality. However, his excessive daydreaming also hinders his ability to engage fully with the present moment and address his real-life issues.


While Walter Mitty’s condition is never explicitly labeled as Maladaptive Daydreaming in Thurber’s story, his daydreaming tendencies align with the characteristics of this mental health disorder. Understanding the underlying mental illness behind Walter Mitty’s daydreaming can help us empathize with individuals who struggle with similar challenges in their daily lives.

It is important to note that Maladaptive Daydreaming is a relatively new concept in the field of psychology, and further research is needed to fully understand its causes and treatment options. If you or someone you know is experiencing excessive daydreaming that interferes with daily functioning, it is recommended to seek professional help from a mental health provider.



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