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Specifically: is there a name or description for a person who actually believes they are doing something, performing a task, work, etc., whereas in reality they are not acting on these tasks etc. at all?

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6 Answers 6

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'Walter Mitty'

is a proverbial character escaping into a dream world.

Wikipedia gives several examples in the link above.

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I think that "delusional" fits the bill nicely.

DelusionalVocabulary

A delusional person believes things that couldn't possibly be true. If you're convinced that the microwave is attempting to control your thoughts, you are, sadly, delusional.

Delusional comes from a Latin word meaning "deceiving." So delusional thinking is kind of like deceiving yourself by believing outrageous things. Delusional thoughts are often a sign of mental illness, but the word can also be used more loosely to describe behavior that is just not realistic. If your friend thinks he's going to get rich playing video games, he's probably not mentally ill, but it's not a stretch to call him delusional.

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"Don Quixote", in the book by Miguel de Cervantes, might also qualify.

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There’s an old joke:

The difference between a neurotic, a psychotic, and a psychiatrist [is that] the neurotic builds castles in the sky, the psychotic lives in them, and the psychiatrist collects the rent.
                        (copied from here)

Wikipedia says the following about psychosis:

Psychosis refers to an abnormal condition of the mind described as involving a “loss of contact with reality”.

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People with psychosis normally have one or more of the following: hallucinations, delusions, catatonia, or a thought disorder.  Impairments in social cognition also occur.

So you could use psychotic.

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You could say that such a person has his head in the clouds, meaning he is out of touch with reality or daydreaming. This phrase can refer to how a person is behaving in a given moment or a general characteristic of that person.

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Hallucinator

From oxforddictionaries.com:

hallucinate 

VERB [NO OBJECT]

1 Experience a seemingly real perception of something not actually present, typically as a result of a mental disorder or of taking drugs:

Ben began hallucinating and having fits

1.1 [WITH OBJECT] Experience ahallucination of (something):

I don’t care if they’re hallucinating purple snakes

[WITH CLAUSE]: he starts hallucinating that he is Jesus

hallucinator

NOUN

Example sentences

Because for every imbecility that comes along, there are dozens of hallucinators who are eager to put it over on people… and at least half the population is ready to believe it.

About half of the hallucinators had cataracts or poor eyesight, compared to only 18% of the non-hallucinators.

We showed that a region in the right anterior cingulate was activated in the hallucinators when they heard a message and hallucinated hearing it, but not when they simply imagined it.

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