Escapism: Leave Your Fantasy World And Live In Reality

“The Difference Between Medicine and Poison is in the Dose” by Circa Survive

“Did you ever wish you were somebody else?” This line from one of my all time favorite songs is one that I think most people would have to answer with a “yes”.

Who hasn’t, at one point or another, wished they had the badass martial arts skills of Bruce Lee, or the incredible panty-dropping charm of Californication’s Hank Moody?

It is a wonderful thing to have role models, and to emulate others in order to achieve similar results. That’s just smart.

But it is another thing entirely to want to be somebody else. There is a fundamental distinction between wishing to have certain qualities of another person and wishing to actually be that other person.

This desire to be another person is a form of escapism, which is a very unhealthy way of coping with the challenges in your life. The caricature of an unpopular nerd, heavily addicted to role-playing games, is a perfect example of this. Picture the character Augie from David Wain’s brilliant and hilarious film “Role Models”.

But you need not be that far removed to experience the negative effects of shrinking away from reality. Escapism, or withdrawing from the pressures of the real world into a safer fantasy world, is pervasive in our culture. It comes in many forms, some rather subtle, and prevents us from doing what we need to do to improve the circumstances of our real lives.

 

Why We Construct a Fantasy World

The ultimate “goal” of escapism is the destruction of “self”. If you have an aspect of your life that you want to escape from, your fantasies act as a means of dissociating your mind from the “you” that possesses these qualities. With enough repetition, you come to view yourself as a totally separate entity from the one that has these negative traits or circumstances. Only in rare instances does it get so extreme, but partial destruction of the “self” and dissociation are quite common.

When we practice escapism, we are trying to avoid “spending time” with ourselves. Rather than engage in healthy introspection or meaningful social interaction, we occupy ourselves endlessly with Facebook, television, email, video games, gambling, drugs and alcohol, and so on. In fact, individuals have been shown to watch TV when they have a lower “need for cognition”, or, in other words, to prevent them from thinking1. Escapism is the opposite of mindfulness.

Escapism allows us to numb ourselves to a reality that we do not want to accept. For example, this “actual-ideal self-discrepancy” predicts pathological gaming, where the gamer can pretend to be somebody else2. It allows us to avoid feelings of shame or emotional pain. By imagining ourselves as someone who doesn’t have the constraints that we do, or who possesses something that we lack, we can “experience” that life without having to do the work (and have the luck) necessary to achieve it.

Fantasy World

For most people, these fantasies are localized to one or a few specific areas, as opposed to fantasies of being an entirely different person. For men, a common fantasy realm is that where their success with women is far greater than it is in real life. They imagine themselves as being able to get any woman they want (excessive porn use likely reinforces this fantasy), so the dearth of romance in their life doesn’t hurt as much.

Escapism is a way of attempting to negate our personal responsibility and to avoid the discomfort of existential angst that we all must deal with. We are ultimately responsible for all the decisions that we make and the actions that we take, but living in a fantasy world is a way of absolving ourselves of the consequences of our actions. To the escape artist, “real life” is no longer their problem.

 

Why You Must Return To Reality

It should be obvious by now that a tendency to retreat into fantasy is going to have negative effects on you. But what are these effects?

Mood and Depression

First and foremost, people who use escapism as a coping strategy tend to be more depressed. This is hardly surprising. There is plenty of evidence that avoidant (escapist) coping methods are associated with depression, but which causes which?

In a ten year prospective study, researchers found that baseline avoidance coping was prospectively associated with higher life stress (both acute and chronic) at year four, and that these life stressors linked baseline avoidance coping with depressive symptoms at year ten3. The way you deal with stress has an impact on how much stress you have, and this higher stress can cause depression.

A study on adolescents found that those who employed avoidant coping strategies (as opposed to “approach oriented” coping) reported the highest levels of depressive symptoms up to two years later4. Avoidant coping is also a predictor of psychological distress in elderly individuals5.

Additionally, certain escapist behaviors have been linked to depression. In particular, technology use. In a large survey of Korean internet users, overuse of the internet was associated with depression, loneliness, and compulsiveness6. And considering how an estimated 5-10% of Americans are internet addicts, this is a huge problem. Many of these addicts, when surveyed, said that they use the internet to avoid reality, and were significantly more likely to use the internet in response to feelings of sadness or depression. Interestingly, internet addicts tend to engage in interactive services online (gaming, participating in forums, etc.) in order to compensate for their lack of interpersonal interaction in reality. Contrast this with non-addicts, who were far more likely to meet up with real people in response to sadness.

But it’s not just the internet. Information and communication technology in general is associated with higher levels of stress and depression in college students7. Television exposure and total media exposure in adolescence are associated with increased odds of depressive symptoms in young adulthood, especially in young men8. And, for adolescents, use of role-playing games is predictive of internalizing problem behaviors such as anxiety or social withdrawal9.

It seems reasonable that there is some psychic cost to living outside of reality. The use of escapist/avoidant coping, including the excessive withdrawal into technology, is a recipe for negative feelings and disconnection from others.

Social Costs of Escapism

Habitual escapism will alienate you from your friends, family, and others in general. And because having meaningful relationships is probably the most important factor in your happiness and ability to handle life’s challenges, the findings from the previous section make perfect sense.

It is beyond the scope of this post to delve into the details of how a rich social life is beneficial, but surely you don’t need me to tell you that it is important. And interacting with people face-to-face is significantly better than having virtual relationships online. In fact, having more internet relationships is associated with higher levels of emotional loneliness than having face-to-face relationships10.

If you were to do your own research on this, you would find that, paradoxically, using the internet to communicate with friends and family is also associated with lower levels of depression11. I think this can be explained by how you feel the need to communicate. If the internet is used as a supplement to face-to-face relationships, it is okay. But if you are using the internet to further practice escapism and replace your in-person relationships, then it is bad. In fact, there is some evidence that when extroverts use the internet for communication, it is more beneficial than when introverts do12.

Escapism Makes You Stagnate

Quite simply, you cannot achieve your goals while living in a fantasy world. If you want to improve in this life, you will need to experience discomfort. That is the only way to expand your comfort zone. But the purpose of escapism, of the fantasy, is to avoid even thinking about your comfort zone entirely.

A common theme you have heard me mention (and that any good personal development website would mention) is that in order to progress in any area of your life, you must take action. But the more time you spend inside of the fantasy world in your mind, the less motivation you have to do anything about your “real” life.

Take the guy who fantasizes about being successful with women. He feels scarcity in his romantic life, so he retreats into the far more comfortable world in his mind where he is like a James Bond protégé. Whenever he is in that world, he feels okay, and that gnawing lack no longer has the power to motivate him. You can imagine how this fantasy becomes addictive and highly self-reinforcing; spending time in la-la-land is hardly attractive to the opposite sex. Individuals who have positive fantasies but negative expectations of success tend to fail.

 

Back to Reality, oh, There Goes Gravity

Fantasy World

I would consider escapism a form of behavioral addiction. In fact, many of the escapist “methods” are indeed addictions, including gambling and overuse of the internet.

Addictions can be tough to break, particularly when there is an emotional component behind them. It’s not merely “being addicted to a fantasy”, but the challenge of getting over the reasons why you’ve constructed that fantasy in the first place. Breaking the habit/addiction is only so effective when you still have something you’re running from; more likely than not, without dealing with the underlying issue, you will merely shift to another escapist behavior or fantasy.

With that out of the way, how can you best return to reality after being stuck in a fantasy world for so long?

Laying the Groundwork

First things first, you’ll need to do some self-analysis and figure out what it is you are fleeing from. In some cases this will be far easier than others. For the man who fantasizes about being a stud, the answer may be fairly obvious. But for the guy who is a gambling addict, the form of escapism is likely less related to its function.

Most people will not need any major degree of psychoanalysis for this. But it can be helpful to sit down with a pad and paper and answer a few questions. In what situations do you typically engage in your escapist behavior? Is there a specific feeling or mood that triggers it? What is it that you enjoy about your fantasy? What is it you feel as you “return” from it?

Beyond this self-understanding, there are two other, more long-term strategies to help break you out of your fantasy world. Readers of this blog will not be surprised to hear me mention self-acceptance and gratitude. But they really are that important that I need to mention them over and over.

Most of the time, living in a fantasy world is a product of believing that you have some sort of flaw. If this is the root cause, you’ll need to GET OVER IT. That’s the only long-term solution. Yes, it’s easier said than done. Yes, it’s a totally different topic, and one that you’ll need to look into on your own (but this site has some resources that can help, including the link above). But any way you spin it, you’ll need to accept yourself, despite whatever perceived flaws you may have.

Practicing gratitude is one of the best ways you can get to that level of self-acceptance. Keep a gratitude journal, or at least make a conscious effort to add some gratitude practice to your daily life. It reminds you of the good in life and crowds out thoughts about whatever may be lacking. You can even “target” your gratitude; the guy with the stud fantasy can be grateful that he lives in a world with so many beautiful women. When you cultivate an abundance mentality, the need for a fantasy world simply dissolves.

Short-Term Strategies and Tactics

That’s all well and good in the long term, but you do need some tactics to help you short-circuit you natural response to dive into your escapist fantasy world. The techniques in this section will help you do this, but without the fundamentals above, you will never fully “recover”.

I firmly believe that electronic media are one of the prime escapist outlets used by the majority of people. If you can’t seem to spend time away from your phone, the internet, video games, tv, etc., it would be worth your while to try it. Even for just a day. Hell, I lived phoneless in a foreign country for five months.

It’s so easy to use electronics in order to stop yourself from thinking, or to numb yourself from whatever is going on in your life. A media fast can be a shock to your system, but, like a regular fast, has a cleansing effect. Afraid of missing out on whatever your friends are doing? Chances are, you’ll get along fine.

Even if you don’t go to the extreme of eliminating all electronic usage for a period of time, you can certainly limit it, particularly problem areas. For many people, that would be mindlessly surfing the web, playing video games, or binging on Netflix. I’m a news junkie, and taking a week off from reading the news every once in a while is incredibly helpful for me. In fact, I ought to do that this week.

Since escapism is just a specific form of “not living in the now”, bringing yourself back to the present as often as possible is an important tactic. Again, easier said than done. But there are things you can do, like taking up meditation, even for only five or ten minutes a day. Or set an alarm on your phone every hour as a reminder to take ten deep breaths and focus on the present. These are rather easy things to do…you just need to do them.

The final tactic for this section can seem useless or downright silly, but practicing it consciously is surprisingly beneficial. You should regularly do something, even trivial, to manipulate your environment. This functions as a reminder that you have control. You are not, in fact, living in a dream, but rather reality. A reality that you have control over, even if it is in some trivial way. A good example of this would be to move the salt shaker just a little bit when sitting down at a table in a restaurant.

 

Conclusion

According to video game designer Jane McGonigal, there are 500 million people alive today who’ve logged at least 10,000 hours in game worlds, and that number is growing rapidly [EDIT: I’m not quite sure how she arrived at that number, and Greg pointed out in the comments how ridiculous it sounds. Take this statistic with a grain of salt.].

Society is becoming increasingly escapist, and I believe this is leading to a surge in psychological issues. Perhaps that could explain the recent incident where two 12-year old girls from Wisconsin stabbed their classmate 19 times as a tribute to the fictional horror meme Slender Man.

This isn’t to say that fantasy will turn you into a homicidal maniac, or even that all fantasy is bad. On the contrary, there is such a thing as a healthy fantasy world; it’s just harder to come by.

For it to be healthy, you must be accessing these fantasy worlds with a positive intention and from a place of emotional security, rather than as an attempt to escape reality. The intention is key. If you are merely trying to make negative feelings go away, and you do it reflexively, you are practicing escapism. If you use fantasy as an occasional means of taking a mental break from the stressors of life, that is fine. And even better, if you use it to explore your imagination, you can gain access to a wider range of ideas and possible solutions to issues you may be having than you would by strictly adhering to reality.

Ultimately, it comes down to your mindset. If you are running away from reality, you will suffer the consequences. But if you are accessing another world in order to gain some insights to bring back to reality, you will profit.

 

Footnotes:

1. http://www.berndhenning.de/joc-nfc.pdf

2. http://online.liebertpub.com/doi/abs/10.1089/cyber.2010.0463

3. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3035563/

4. http://link.springer.com/article/10.1023/A:1026440304695

5. http://journals.lww.com/jonmd/Abstract/1990/08000/Avoidant_Coping_Predicts_Psychological_Disturbance.10.aspx

6. http://69.164.208.4/files/Internet%20Over-Users’%20Psychological%20Profiles–%20A%20Behavior%20Sampling%20Analysis%20on%20Internet%20Addiction.pdf

7. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0747563204002250

8. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3004674/?iframe=true&width=100%25&height=100%25

9. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0140197110000370

10. http://online.liebertpub.com/doi/abs/10.1089/109493101300210303

11. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3234167/

12. http://repository.cmu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1100&context=hcii&sei-redir=1&referer=http%3A%2F%2Fscholar.google.com%2Fscholar%3Fstart%3D30%26q%3Dinternet%2Buse%2C%2Btv%2C%2Band%2Bdepression%26hl%3Den%26as_sdt%3D0%2C50#search=%22internet%20use%2C%20tv%2C%20depression%22

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Comments

  1. very insightful and clear post. my mind has spoken.

  2. As someone who treasures her fantasy life but has seen the need to let go of it, this post is painful to read. I’m going to try writing down the answers to the questions you’ve raised. I hope that my answers will inspire me to face reality with the motivation to improve and not plunge me deeper into my fantasy world instead. Thank you so much.

    • Mikey D says:

      Good luck! This is something I’ve struggled with a bit too. Fantasy can be so comforting, but the real world is a lot better.

    • I have a problem with fantasy worlds and they are so addicting. In fact they are so addicting that I actually got to a point where I thought I couldn’t go a couple of hours without going into my fantasy world. I would go in at least 3 or four times a day and would stay in for an hour or two and it started giving me headaches but I couldn’t stop. It was awful but I gave it to God and He has helped me deal with a lot of the heart issues involved with it and I’m going on 36 days without it. I give all the glory to the Lord Almighty! Praise God!

      • Hi there…please can you tell me what thing helped you specifically… I need help… Please reply…
        Aakash.dby@gmail.com

        • James Sever says:

          Yeah can you tell me too? I’m getting so depressed and mixed up that sometimes I have to wipe the cold sweat off of my forehead before I go into work. Not only do I have a problem with living in fantasy (because my life seems too void and meaningless to bear) but it gets intensified by like a factor of 100 because I get SO EMENSLY PASSIONATE without any outlet for that passion (like saving the world, a fantasy) that it just reinforces my fantasy with passion. And like it is said in the post I feel like this life is just a dream anyways because it is so pointless and uneventful, even if there are events in MY life, who cares its just me, its not like im makeing the world better.

          So anyway pertaining to your post, the worst part is that because reality and fantasy get so jumbled I begin to wonder if God is just a fantasy, even though I KNOW there is ABSOLUTELY no LOGICAL explanation for the genesis of the universe without a divine being. I just don’t understand why God isn’t all I need and doesn’t feel like enough purpose to satisfy me, aka im in depressed longing overload. I always feel like this NEW LIFE is somewhere ON THE HORIZON just waiting for me so that I can finally live a meaningful life but it never comes and it’s killing me. Sometimes I chase after certain communities; anime, motorcycles, gaming, etc to feel like I’m a part of something but when I realize that Im not because its all just online and im not even talking to anyone then I break into a cold sweat and if im in a passion episode it makes me go insane and if im also listening to music, (screamo) i rage along with it in a fit of passion. I just wish God could just come down and write on the wall or yell at me in a thundering voice that blows me off my feet so that I feel alive again and that Im not just dreaming and know he’s there, but you know he’s not gonna do that even though I wish he would. I already run like crazy for criss country (collegiate NCAA DIV 1) because im driven by what feels like a nuclear power plant (my passion) and I enjoy the running but it is still not enough to sap my passion. Do I just need to find a Christian groul and DO something? If it gives you any more info on my position, I have had BARELY ANY friends from highschool because I had a graduating class of 5 people, yes 5. And yeah I grew close to them but they didnt really go along with my personality like enjoying the same stuff which I understand I mean there were only 5 people so… but still shouldn’t God be enough alone?
          In conclusion (sorry this was WAYYYY longer than I expected but I really just want to go THERE but THERE is a fantast and reality seems like a dream already, i just feel like life is pointless anyways and want to DO SOMETHING! WHAT DID YOU DO?

          • I hear you Mr. Sever. It is good that you recognize the deppression you fall into, and the fact that your escapism is not doing anything for you. God sees that and knows and sympathizes with what you’re going through. In your post, you said, ” who cares its just me, its not like im makeing the world better.” Did anyone ask you to ” make this world better”? Did someone bestow that responsibility on you? Why do you feel as if making the world better proves your significance? You being alive is amzing beacuse that is what God wanted for you to be. Moving on, God is enough for you. The advice I can give to you is to press into Him. Whatever that means, right? It means pray, sing to Him, worship, read your Bible. Just because you don’t feel that He is enough for you, doesn’t mean that He is not, and you will NEVER recognize Him as such. Look, you feeling that wway is normal! But feeling like He is enough for you, is also normal. How about you believe He is enough for you ( not believing based on feeling, but beliving because it’s in the Bible) : Hebrews 1:3 He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high. Psalms 119:28 My soul is weary with sorrow; strengthen me according to your word. John 3:16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. With these pieces of truth, and way more where it came from, God is enough for you. In all you do, do to glorify God. That is one way to accept that He is the ultimate in your life. It’s great that you run, but you shouldn’t do it to try to chase after that feeling of satisfication or the feeling of living out your passion. You said that it does not sap your passion, so maybe there is more to you than running. Ask God to reveal what is that you are made for on this earth. Your life is not pointless, and fantasies do not heal. A Christian group could help you. Be careful who you surround yourself with because some people might say they are what they aren’t, and just not be much of a help. Be careful in finding a Christian Group. I suggest you not only join them beacuse they meet at Dunkin’ Doungnuts and you get a free douhngnut. You should know what you are involing yourself in. Also, if you do decide to join a Christian group, don’t look for it to heal you or anything. That comes from God. Press into God. Bye!

  3. Thank you for this. My escapism tends to come about in the form of strong obsessions with people – always people I don’t know (or don’t know well). I can clearly see the line between the person and the ‘idea of the person’, although this can occasionally become confused if I have actual contact in them/have met them in real life. I rarely, if ever, actually idealise the person. In fact, I’m often confused why I can’t stop thinking about them/reading about them because they are normally someone I DO NOT admire. I think it’s just because the object of fantasy is relatively random.

    But it’s not always people. Sometimes it’s theories or TV shows or sometimes it’s just surfing on the internet.

    I feel like I’ve lost years to this. It’s incredibly frustrating. I graduated top of my year at uni, Ive been talent scouted for my chosen career, and yet I have done basically nothing for years. I’m close to losing my job because I’m habitually late. I can’t ‘stay with it’ in the morning. I don’t sleep well because I can’t ‘switch off’ from the fantasies.

    I’ve been like this since I was a young child. I can see that there is some pleasure and reward in the fantasies (in that the ‘pressure’ is relieved when I’m not in the real world), but mostly I find them torturous. It’s frequently got to the point where fantasising is compulsive. I.e. I feel physically uncomfortable if events outside of myself have meant I’ve had to focus on the real world for most of the day and will take a ‘daydream break’ (go off and find space for myself to disappear for a while…). Other times, I have not felt in control of my thoughts. I have wanted, desperately, to stop obsessing about whatever I’m obsessing about but images and thoughts will start intruding on my others thoughts. I’ve actually phoned friends and asked them to distract me in any way possible because it’s like water torture. My brain fixates on something and then it just loops and loops and loops and I just want it to end.

    I think my problem is on the extreme end because I do experience a loss of sense of self when the escapism is intense. I lose my sense of centre, feel hollow and empty inside (almost ‘incomplete’ or not a ‘real person’), and I get a frightening and disorienting sensation that I don’t know who I am anymore – like I have no core. I believe this is dissociation, as when the episode is over my sense of self returns so I do not have a consistently moving sense of self and those outside of me would describe me as consistent (even if I feel that I’m not).

    I hate this and I want it to end. It’s ruined my life – well, I guess other people find me successful, so maybe not ‘ruined’, but I certainly don’t have the life I want. Not even close. And as a result, the escapism just gets worse as I get older. I’m unable to live in the real world because I hate it so much. I try to change my real world but it’s difficult because I can’t ‘stay with it’ long enough.

    It’s also become embarrassing when the fantasy melts into real life (i.e. I become obsessed with someone I don’t know well, but do have contact with), as the two worlds can occasionally blur temporarily. That’s not common, normally I have a very good grasp of the difference between reality and fantasy, but there have been occasions that have shocked and scared me where it’s like I ‘forget’…

    I’ve told therapists, but they don’t really focus on that as the issue…I understand why (it’s a symptom), but it’s also making it very difficult for me to make real changes in my life so I think it’s important.

    I’m already doing mindfulness, but I’m definitely going to do the alarm thing. I might timetable myself tasks for each day and set a series of alarms to tell me to do them so that I’m more consistently in the real world.

    Thanks…hope it works…

    • Thanks for sharing, Sarah. I’m sorry to hear you’ve had such a hard time with this. Please, let me know if any of these things help out. Best of luck to you!

    • Sarah P says:

      Hi Sarah,

      Wow, thanks for sharing your situation. It sounds like a real struggle for you. I have a lot of these tendencies as well, although for me I didn’t even realize how deeply escaped I was. You actually seem very aware (maybe because you have to be) of the issues you are dealing with.

      For me, I came to understand it was emotional damage/ escape from the lack of control, etc due to early sexual abuse from family members. I never would have realized what happened in my past (I was a baby) however in post-traumatic stress disorder I started to re-live the experiences again and again in real life with real people. Acquaintance rape. After this pattern repeated itself, despite causing extreme anguish, I realized that I did not know how to protect myself from sexually abusive people and how to protect myself and drive them away.

      Your situation is surely very different, but I might suggest that you work on your boundaries, and even practice dialogue from movies where the characters are very self-defined. The obsessive thoughts, may be trying to avoid a sense of perceived or real guilt or wrong doing. Try to forgive yourself and let go, when you keep circling around in them. There is nothing wrong with being imaginative or dreamy to a degree, but it sounds like it is not helpful to you and causes you stress and prevents you from living in the moment. I wish you the best, coming out from these dark places and accepting yourself as you are. Once you can find the write balance, your current life should not be such an ongoing struggle. Wholeness is wholesome.

      Sarah

    • I can understand where you’re coming from Sarah. I was the same way, wanting to stop but feeling like you can’t. It consumed most of my day and I became painfully shy towards people and it was borderline social anxiety disorder like I could physically be around people but I would want to emotionally disconnect. The fantasy worlds would fill my head for hours everyday. I would spend time in them when I was riding in the car with someone, walking to classes, and then at least 3 or 4 times a day I would go walking in my driveway (it was fairly long) for about an hour or two in the fantasy world and it began giving me headaches but I couldn’t stop. I honestly believed that I couldn’t go for more than a few hours without being in my fantasy world. And when I wasn’t stuck in my personal fantasy world I was stuck in the television and that became an addiction as well. I also felt I couldn’t go a day without television. I would also get obsessed with characters and the people who played them. I would also become very obsessed with TV shows especially superhero shows and movies and those would often be the object of my fantasy world. It was truly awful. But that’s when I began to reconnect with God and I gave the problem to Him. He didn’t immediately take it away, otherwise I wouldn’t learn, but He has been revealing to me the heart issues that caused me to go into my fantasy world and although the urges are still there I’ve gone 36 days without going into my fantasy world and without watching TV and I must give all the glory to God because without Him I would still be like I was in the beginning. It hasn’t been easy but I am still a work in progress and the urges are a lot more manageable and I won’t lie, I still get obsessed with characters and TV shows from time to time but again I’m still a work in progress and I know that God will make these urges completely disappear one day. I’m not trying to shove Jesus Christ down your throat. I’m honestly just telling you my personal testimony with this addictive drug called fantasy and I hope this helps you.

    • Same here…:)

    • I think it’s also a form of Aspergers, I’m sure I have this. I use fantasy as a way of escaping an abusive childhood and I think I won’t be free until the abuser is dead. But I can’t let go.

  4. Hi

    I have read through your post and i get it, but at this moment when the world is full of terrorists chopping peoples heads off, bankers robbing people blind of their pensions and savings, government ministers giving themselves big pay rises when nurses, school teachers etc are having to endure cuts after cuts, so on and so on, i can really understand why some people WANT to escape into a world of fantasy!

    Kids of today are being forced to grow up faster than they should be due to a targets and stats driven education system, my 7 year old niece cries a lot due to the amount of home work she has to do just to satisfy stupid Ofsted government targets! Homework was non-existent when i was in junior school during the late 70’s/early 80’s, i can totally understand why kids immerse themselves in computer games etc just escape from the pressure.

    Don’t blame fantasy, its our silly modern society that has driven them all to it.

    • Thanks for the comment, Dave!

      I can completely understand your point (I happen to have very cynical/radical views of the world myself – being an anarchist isn’t easy these days), but I disagree. There will always be huge problems in the world, but escaping into a fantasy world doesn’t help any more than dulling the pain with heroin would. And in fact, I think that most of the people who have “real” things to complain about are far more grounded in reality, while it is the more well-off and spoiled people who have the biggest problems with escapism.

      I’m sure there are legitimate situations where escapism would be a valid defensive mechanism to dull the pain of inescapable situations. But the vast majority of people are not in these situations, yet practicing escapism makes it much more difficult to pick yourself up.

  5. Great article, Im writing a paper and wish to site some things you’ve said in this article. What is your last name?
    Thanks,

    -Anthony

  6. This article has shaken me to the core. I have made it a habit of having random hookups and flings with people I would never fall for in a sane state of mind. And everytime things would spin out of control as they were bound to just because I have been ‘using’ the wrong kind of people to assuage for my loneliness. I would feel depressed, out of balance and would attempt to end my life. And there is this voice at the back of my head that has warned me every single time that this is not someone I want to be with and its eventually gonna burn me badly but I would shut it away because at that moment the thrill of it all overshadowed everything else. I would start feeling for people with such intensity that it was frightening and would convince myself that I was in love with that person and ergo kill the voice of reason. Killing of ‘self’ as you said in your article…And it has become such a derogatory pattern for my mind and health that I see no way out. Being on a constant prowl for these little shots of escapism has fucked up every sphere of my life…Ive drifted apart from my family, friends, academics, life goals et al. I have become majorly alcoholic and addicted to smokes at a very young age. I am constantly depressed, Ive been to therapists and have been diagnosed with a mental disorder…But after reading this I feel like I can take control of my life again.

    This article has given me the much needed wake up call and I can atleast identify with who and what the culprit is. Awareness is the first step towards acceptance they say and then comes the time for action and Im thankful that I stumbled across this piece today. I was always aware of why things were going wrong somewhere deep down but this has made me accept it, understand it. And now I am more hopeful ( : Thank you for this!

  7. Escapism is pretty much a lifestyle for me and has been for so many years that the thought of changing it seems pretty overwhelming. Somehow this post made the task seem less impossible, and I thank you a lot for that. I just fear that the inevitable failures, difficulties, rejections and most of all realizations I will encounter when I try to change my life will make me feel so down that I’ll just slide right back into this mindset that i currently have, because that is what I’ve done in the past. I know I have to find other ways to cope.

    • Thanks for sharing, Carlin. It sounds like you’ve already decided how you plan to react to any attempt to change your life. You already realize that difficulties are inevitable…so just accept them. I don’t think you would need to beat yourself up if you fall back into escapism, you just need to get back to reality once it has served its purpose.

  8. This is so good. It serves as a wake up call to me. I always have to fantasize when I am bored or feeling lousy or feeling high. It’s seems like I can slip into fantasy in whatever state of mind. The article is so true when it mentioned about the emptiness feeling it brings. I guess I just have to tell myself not choosing the easy way out by fantasizing instead I should work towards my goals. Guess it’s the way to break away from fantasy. It’s like a vicious circle where you fantasize to ne successful yet never achieving anything real life and begin to grumble about it and cycles continue on and on. Pardon me for the bad english and really thank you for this article.:-)

    • Thanks for the comment! Yeah, fantasizing to the point of escapism is a really tricky thing. It’s like soma.

  9. great post! i have struggled with fantasizing all my life…and managed to turn some of those fantasies into reality….i noticed you describe yourself as an anarchist, and i would say i definitely am an anarchist as well. one fantasy i had was fighting the police which ended up becoming a reality for me. almost went to prison ten years for that. now iam more of a non-violent anarchist, and since i got out my violent side by fighting the police, i just use my voice to inspire others. your article was great because it helped me realize some fears i have of getting a job and being fired. it’s really strange how without knowing the specific thing we are afraid of it can keep us from facing the problem head on. i use to be a major avoider of confrontation with fear, but now i tend to face it head on. i have a job i am trying to get with a construction company and your article has helped me greatly!

    • Thank you for the compliment, Matt! I’m glad you managed to keep yourself out of prison!

      I couldn’t agree more with you about how when fears are ambiguous, they are far more challenging to deal with. Tim Ferris has a technique he calls “fear-setting” that he recommends and I strongly support: basically, it involves defining your fear and then realizing that almost always, it’s not that bad. I actually wrote up a short post about it a while back: http://feelhappiness.com/day-21-fear-setting/

  10. Hello,
    Thank you so much for this. I am in my last senior year of school, and these fantasies of mine, are driving me crazy. They are mostly dependent on things such as my favorite movies, books and music. It has gotten to the point that I cannot listen to music without going off into the dream world, which is really annoying sometimes. It has been going on for about 6 to 7 years now. The first few years were ok, then it got to the point where I knew I had to stop this nonsense, and then it slowed down for a bit. And now it had started again, but more intense than ever before, but I cannot afford to waste my time on this in my senior year. So thanks for the tips. I’ll try them out.

    • Let me know how it goes, Hanna!

    • I’ve been in my fantasy world for about 10 years and it can be so annoying and hard to fight and when I was at a real low with it I decided to give it to God and I can tell you I am finally able to go a day without it! In fact I’ve gone 36, praise God! It wasn’t easy but it has been worth it and I must give all the glory to God because without Him I would still be stuck in the endless loop of fantasy after fantasy. If you’re at the point where you feel like you can’t control it at all try saying, ” I take these thoughts and bind them and cast them away in the name of Jesus Christ” and you will get some resistance but that’s normal just keep going and they will go away because they have to. I done it myself and I promise this works.

      -Glory to GOD in the highest-

  11. Hi Mikey,

    It was an thought-provoking, alarming and a wake-up-call article!

    This article has given me precise analysis of what I have been suffering from. It has summrized what I have been doing since many years, without even realizing. I am 26 and I fairly have an idea that something is really screwed up with me and I need to take an action. This article has helped me organize and dissect the problems.

    Escapism is indeed very difficult to tackle. I have never realized when did I become slave of it. You work/study for few minutes, escape for an hour. You have some responsibilities, you show your back to it. Pattern repeats. Circle is formed. And there. You are trapped. Blindfolded for quite some time. Having no idea that it is sucking your moral spirit. Bit by bit.

    Please accept my sincere gratitude for this article. You are doing a great deed by helping others through such articles. I wish to get back to you some day when I am done fighting this devil.

    Best regards.

    • Thank you for the comment, Ravi! I’m glad it got through to you – escapism has been a big problem for myself, and as you may be able to tell, I put a lot of myself into this article. Please, let me know how you progress with this. Good luck!

    • suman prem says:

      Hi,
      Im Dr. Suman prem preparing for post graduation, I have same issues, is there any place I can contact you in person.
      Thank you.

  12. I feel like I have lucid moments when I want to take action and be proactive in life. But, as the day goes on, more and more pressure builds up and I just want to escape, unfortunately. Some days are better than others….

    • Take advantage of those lucid moments and make the most of them, then!

    • Sarah P says:

      I feel the same way Aoi. Just start with one thing, like go outside. Or form a plan of what you want to do, go to a park.. and then execute that. You will feel better.

      In far darker days, I would sleep all day and night and day. I would feel awful, but I didn’t take a hold of those lucid moments, instead I would beat myself up for not getting up at 6am, or 8am or 10am, or noon or 2pm or 4pm or… no matter when I got up, I always felt better than if I did nothing but escape.

  13. I don’t agree with this article at all. I think fantasy is better than real life very easily. “Real Life” has nothing to offer but suffering. I firmly believe that the lows in real life overshadow the highs by a mile making it futile to try to be “happy” (whatever that means). I didn’t ask to be born into a life where I just screw up everything and trudge through the daily grind of this terrible life. I play open world rpg games to cope with how horrible life is and you want to take that away? But seriously, for some people fantasy is a deterrent to suicide because life is so crappy.

    • Mikey D says:

      Thanks for the comment, Mark. I’m sorry that this is the way you feel, but I think you missed the point of this article. It’s not about whether real life is better than the fantasy – it never is, practically by definition. Real life may suck at any given moment, but retreating into a fantasy prevents you from doing anything about it.

      By the way, I’m not trying to take your fantasy world away from you. That’s entirely your choice. But for many if not most people, it is a serious hindrance to making any sort of progress in real life. And while I’m sure there are some people who are dissuaded from committing suicide because of a fantasy, I’m sure there are at least as many who’s fantasy is a major cause of their suffering, and thus are more likely to commit suicide as well.

  14. I am going through same problems that you are talking about.i was trying to find myself in world of fantasy.i enjoy being alone than to be surrounded by fake peoples. and i know this is my problem it wont help me to live my life happily but i couldn’t accept some faults .
    i spend my free time in my phone /laptop and tv ,i like being alone and fantasize my life with every good things that makes me happy .
    I am running away from my problems and reality of my life, i even create my own world filled with fantasy and happiness and it makes me happy than anything .All i want is to be happy. I don’t know i am doing right or not but this became huge problem i can’t hear anything negative things about myself and other peoples too ( those who doesn’t know me, peoples who had nothing to do with me )
    i just want to talk about nice things -about anything.
    I want to overcome with these problems and i am trying so hard.
    Ps. English is not my first language 🙂

    • Mikey D says:

      Hi Elsa, thanks for the comment! Many people struggle with this, and to be honest, it isn’t easy to overcome. But it can be done! Keep trying.

    • Sarah P says:

      Fantasy in doses can inspire you, it’s when it becomes an escape. I like the quote/song at the top of this article: “The Difference Between Medicine and Poison is in the Dose” by Circa Survive

      Fantasy can help you survive or cope in the darkest moments. I believe that is why we do it. However, it’s a short term solution, and if you rely only on fantasy it becomes harder and harder to live life and have the confidence to make changes and move forward to a fulfilling life. I did feel like I was in a cocoon in fantasy and knew eventually I would emerge. But it took me ten years too long. 😛

      Thanks for this article!

  15. I am 19 years old , and I think I suffer of escapism. Mostly what you said are a match for my ” condition ” . I don’t smoke , I never got drunk , I don’ gamble , and I don’t know what leads me into writing this. I never talketalk endd about my escapism with nobody. I didn’t even know there was a problem at first . I can’t remember the first time it started , I feel like I’m doing it since forever . My escapism consist in imagining an other me , living in a world where I’m happy . The other me has everything I wish I had , the life that I dreaming , an ideal life. I’ve changed her more than once and I think it depends upon my mood. Sometimes she is kind , gentle , nonjudgmental, but sometimes she can be cold , ruthless , and has an opinion about everyone and everything, but she’s badly hurt. They are always surrounded by people, but I’m alone. My condition is keeping me apart from family , potential friends and work. Even now , I’m not sure that I want any help. As time passes I realised that the need of retreating into my head has become higher , like I’m addicted to it. When I’m her , I’m more confident , I’m smarter , I’ m more beautiful , successful , I have everything and everyone I please. The worst part is that I don’t want to get rid of her, even though she occupies too much time in my life, and I realise that when I’m her I don’t do anything in reality. My reality is not that great , I have no plans for the future , I would like to have passion in my life but I can’t figure out what kind of it. I’m afraid that all of my choises are made around her , but I keep forgeting that I’m not her , I’m not confident and I have too many fears . I’ve done a lot of psychological tests but I’ve never been to a psychologist. I don’t know if this is escapism or something else . I’ve thought about psychological disorder , but nothing matches. The truth is that I bring her in real life especially in my interactions with others , both of them , the kind one , and the cold one too. I keep telling myself that this is me , that the way I’m designing her is the way I feel, it’s not her doing the movement , it’s just me . I often feel that it will become worse , I’ve suffered from depression more than once and the truth is that me escaping in my imagination , had a big role in getting out of depression. I think I see her as a more older version of me , that is why I have too many hopes and dreams. But she’s keeping me from making relationships with my family , friends . I don’t think I feel anything for anyone anymore, I wouldn’t miss anybody , if I were going away. I don’t know if that’s a bad or a good thing . I feel like I’m becoming colder , and I feel so detached of reality. Nothing really matters in reality anymore . I’m not happy in reality , I’m not depressed either, but it’s effortless to feel sad. I feel like nobody sees me like I do.

    • Thank you for sharing, Cati. I’m sorry that you feel this way, and I know it can be very difficult. I think seeking counseling could be very beneficial.

  16. sidrakhalid says:

    i have been suffering from depression from last ten years almost from the age of 15 years i feel alone myself and i used to fantasize myself in different type of characters close my eyes and go into the world where there is no worry everything in my control all is well the super stardom life . i feel myself like a girl who have everything what i want to have and want to achieve power money a loyal relationship and also a good friend . everyone is crushed on me and i enjoyed a lot .but sometimes this fantasy become more worse when i think about my enemies and i took the revenge in my fantasy i feel myself so exausted after fantasizing and feel blank in real life my memory has become so low and i usualy forget real life events and small daily life chores i want to get rid of this life and want to do someting in real life please help me give me some suggestions

    • Mikey D says:

      I’m very sorry to hear about this, and thank you for sharing your perspective. Oftentimes, counseling can be a good idea in this kind of situation.

  17. Sarah P says:

    Thanks for this article. It helps me understand to reflect and hear others experiences. I didn’t really even feel like I was addicted to fantasy, although I would oversleep constantly and feel fatigued. I would joke to my friends starting ten years ago that I had a serious internet addiction. At first no one believed that could possibly be a problem. But now I think almost everyone online has at one time or another escaped there. Be it obsessing about your Friendster, MySpace, Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter, presence or getting lost in random tangents (my big problem) of curiosity clicking stuff. I know others have trouble not clicking on porn, or playing games like farmville or Xbox live games like Halo, or youtube addictions. The internet is very compelling and in some ways the moods in can generate are like being in a candy shop, which reminds me of people with Amazon or Ebay or Etsy addictions.. But ultimately unless you are also moving forward in your physical life, not just escaping temporarily you are basically procrastinating. And from experience, it gets harder and harder to engage. I would surf the internet and fall asleep with the light on because I didn’t have the perceived strength to get up and put the device away and brush teeth and turn off the light. For me at least I think it ties into some sense of failure or perfectionism, that somehow you will find the answers by escaping, yet I never would turn around and apply it in real life.

    Job searching, apartment hunting or online dating is the worse. You can trick yourself into thinking you are doing something for yourself, when you are actually just interacting with a screen. I can’t tell you how many people emailed me on dating sites and then never wanted to meet in real life (too long of a commute, or feelings of rejection may surface) and after a while I began to feel this way too. Anyways it a very timely topic. While there is a lot of tragedy and bs in the real world, facing it feels better than avoiding it, if you commit to continue. Otherwise it’s like those sleeping brains in the Matrix film. I realize this is just my experience and others may connect to the internet differently, but I feel like this is an issue facing most people today. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brain_in_a_vat

  18. You quoted Eminem. Do you listen to any ‘good’ music?

  19. I have escapism i run from my problem rather than face them

  20. My only problem with this is that this sounds like only people who escape online or in fantasy suffer from escapism.

    In truth however almost everybody does something to keep themselves distracted from the things they hate in this world.
    Example, fashion obsessed people. You could argue that the extreme lenghts people go to to just dress well and be pleasing to others is escapism of a different degree.

    How people who completely submerge themselves with their work suffer from escapism and that people who focus 100% on only 1 goal in their life (getting rich, famous or trying to be best sports person out there) suffer from escapism.

    And many many many more examples are out there. A huge one being religion as well. Often people seem to flea into their religion, opposed to it just being a guide used in healthy doses.

    Also every addiction is escapism. Eating drinking smoking even sex.

    I do get your points in your artickle, and they are true for the most part, but escapism is much much bigger then just those escaping trough fantasy. One could even argue that escaping trough fantasy is a lot healthier then a lot of the alternatives.

    This world has of course it’s beautifull sides. It has it’s horrible sides all the same, And the fact everything is so unfair and unbalanced right now, and how the school system, work system and pretty much every system humans are forced to live in is making people depressed sad angry and numb everyone around the world is indeed the real concern.

    Fact is, if the world was a better place, the very NEED for escaping anything would not be nearly this huge.

    Right now, there are more people escaping their real lives then living it, simply because they are not able nor allowed to live their lives their way. there are many people in this world forcing you to do things that go against your nature. Some examples where mentiond earlyer. Young kids being forced to spend a lt of time on homework instead of being free to just play and enjoy their youth. Adults being forced into 9 to 5 jobs because otherwise rent becomes a problem. There places in the world where things are better yes. but fact remains people are chained in many many ways and another truth is that most people hate it. And thus most people try to escape that by any fun means possible, like for example fashion, sports and other ”hobby” like interests. Or books, games, movies. Or a current big one, Social media like face book twitter etc. Or the biggest one used in history, Religion.

    it’s true however that escapism often helps make things worse instead of better because by escapism you are confronted with what could have been. Like a starving person is given one bite of that apple, only for it to be taken away.

    Which makes the hunger grow as well as the desire because now you know what it tastes like.

    However it is also true that some people just hate this world so much, that if they did not have escapism, they would kill themselves as their only way to escape this world.

    The fact that humans simply do not yet understand what the happiest healthiest way is to live, and trough that drag every human who does understand but lacks the power or freedom to go against the current systems, makes for a world where many not onlt crave but need a way out one way or another.

    So long story short I do agree with you, but you do need to expand escapism to more then fantasy related stuff, because from all the people who suffer from escapism, only a small percentage does so trough fantasy. And ignoring all those other people who do the same thing, only trough different means is not right.

    And it is true that once the world, as in what humans made of it, becomes better, wiser, kinder and less greedy/vain/money econmoics looks obsessed/selfish/mean etc. the need for escapism will dwindle significantly.

    One could even say that escapism is not the sickness, it’s a symptom. Adn thoug you can treat the symptom, it will not be good enough in the long run. What we need is to treat the sickness. Lets indeed make this world kinder and wiser where love and acceptance are king. Not money, work ethic, vanity and anything that plays into people’s insecurities. The current system IS corrupt. Ignoring that won’t help people who suffer from escapism.
    What does help is helping people find the few beautifull things that are really in our world and focus on those, while stll trying to contribute to a better world as well.

    I would 100% agree with you if we lived in a perfect kind wise beautifull world and people got in to escapism then. But we don’t.

    And it is also true not everyone gets depressed because of escapism. A lot do, like the apple example. However in some cases it’s what saves their lives.

    People who are depressed with the world period, and find a way to escape it after they made that deduction. you can’t blame escapism for despression. Only the real world.

    Escapism on it’s own is not bad or good. What makes it bad or good for you is dependand on if you feel better or worse trough it.

    However if it makes you feel worse, and you need to stop it because of that, that does not change the fact the real world is still something you don’t feel home. safe, happy in. It’s like picking between being slightly sad, or very sad for some people.

    I’m not attacking as much as I am trying to show more sides. This atricle does run truths when it comes to a sertain group of people. And I am very gratefull this artickle seems to help people. For that reason alone I think it’s good thing it’s out there.

    But it does exclude the other side of escapism, and the fact it’s found and done everywhere, not only in fantasy. And the fact it’s a symptom, not a sickness seems to be slightly overlooked as well.

    Anyway I rambeld on long enough. I hope to read an atrickle one day that tackles the escapism as a whole, not just that one way people do it (like here trough fantasy). And why it’s even here, and what needs to happen in the world for the numbers to decrease drasticly.

    Greatings,
    Amber

    • Mikey D says:

      Thank you for your thoughts, Amber!

      I focused on fantasy in particular because I think it is a more subtle form of escapism, and one that I personally have dealt with more than other forms. You are completely right that there are many other ways escapism manifests itself, but I wanted to focus more on fantasy because otherwise the post sort of devolves into a generic post about addiction, which was not my intention. But again, you are 100% correct that this was not comprehensive.

      Perhaps dissatisfaction with the external world is a contributing factor to the epidemic of escapism, but I don’t think that it is primary nor do I think that’s where the focus should lie in terms of trying to reduce escapism. Escapism usually is a result of a lack of self-worth, and has little to do with the external world directly. In addition, it is much easier for an individual to fix their self-worth than to end all wars and world hunger. Not that we shouldn’t try to solve those problems as well, but I think the impetus for that should be compassion, rather than returning to reality.

      Thank you again for the insightful comment!

  21. Hi, I’m 17 and i suffer from anxiety, depression and i’m recovering from anorexia. i started writing a version of one of my favorite books from a lesser characters point of view, just something small to begin learning techniques for writing down all my other ideas and i became so engrossed in my characters i live them. i know i wont be able to do it forever and i’m constantly having to stop myself from letting it seep into the my real life, i go over the events in the books and react to events from their point of view and I’ve noticed i will only do it when i’m feeling really bad. i didn’t know what it was before i found this article. its so helpful and has really helped my writing but it as many have pointed out addictive. i don’t want to stop because i like the control of events being planned by me.Its nice to know its not just me being ‘crazy’ i will work on slowly stopping though when everything else has been sorted out. Thank you for the article, its been really helpful, and good luck to everyone else out there 😀

    • Mikey D says:

      Hi Beth,

      I’m glad you found this article helpful! You bring up an interesting point though – in certain creative endeavors, escapism can be a positive thing or necessary to create the best product you can. I’m sure you are a better writer because of being practiced in the art of escapism. At the same time, perhaps it is no coincidence that so many artists, writers, etc. are depressed. Good luck!

  22. Great article.

    I’d like to ask what do you think of reading as a form of escapism, especially reading fictions? A reader falls inside the fantasy world of the book much like a role-playing game.

    How about other seemingly harmless hobbies such as fishing? Most people who fish do it alone and it gives them an isolation period away from the things that is happening in his life.

    In fact I guess you’re right when you mention about intention. It’s the intention that really counts and not so much on the action. It can be practically any ‘normal’ hobby but if the intention is wrong then it becomes a form of escapism. Do you agree?

    • Thanks, Teezackem!

      You’ve answered your own question as far as my opinion goes. Escapism is almost entirely, if not entirely, about intention. I think it can be a little confusing semantically when using the word “escapism” because an escape is not inherently a bad thing. People talk about a vacation as an “escape,” but vacations are hardly unhealthy. In fact, work could be considered escapism for many, and their “escape”/vacation helps them re-connect with real life.

      Spending time alone isn’t inherently escapism either, and your example of fishing is perfect here. I’ve never fished before, but I take it many people feel highly connected to the world when they go fishing. And reading fiction is generally a positive thing for most people (in the same vein as a mini-vacation, I suppose), but some will use it as a way of practicing escapism – they disappear into some fantasy world as a means of ignoring their lives.

      Great comment!

  23. Great article! I’ve experienced living in a shell or fantasy world of some sort when me and my long time partner (9 years together) broke up. It destroyed me mentally but I felt I got the handle of things after a couple of months. But then, things really started to fall down when I lost my motivation to work and left my job. Robbed of doing something meaningful, I found myself spending so much time alone doing nothing but imagining circumstances where everything was better. Sometimes I go and watch different romantic shows and in my head, I was the main protagonist that was living out a good and complete life (kinda sad considering I’m a 26 year old man). It lasted for about 4 months before I finally opened up about my problems with my long time friends. It was a sudden release of emotion that I believe was bottled up when I was living “a perfect life’ in my head. Although I might not be out of the woods, speaking about my problems definitely helped my cause.

  24. Amazing article. I think this will really help me. I know it’ll be real important to really step out of that world, which I am doing, but that world is just too perfect for me to leave.

  25. “500 million people on 10000 hours”?! this must be a typo. that is 1/14 of all humans on earth.

    • That’s a good point, Greg. I just skimmed very briefly through my source on that, and I’m not 100% sure what she is getting at, how she arrived at her numbers, or if I fully understood what she was saying even. I’m going to throw in a little caveat that I’m not sure where she’s getting that kind of number.

  26. Escapism is mandatory to preserve ones sanity, the dose just makes the poison. Thanks Mikey, I really enjoyed reading this article. It’s well written too, cool to see you like the simpsons too ^^

    Anyway, I’ve been browsing some video game movies on youtube today, which is something I actively try to stay away from. Time for some self-analysis!

    I also think some sort of escapsim-type behaviors screw up your dopamine-sensitivity. For example; when you’re in video games where you can shoot magic, have epic robot battles, fly and explode giant buildings your “real life” might be pale in contrast – inducing the feedback loop even more to escape further.

    I do meditation, I have been doing gratefulness every morning/night, I regularly meet up with friends (1/2 week) and have gotten a social hobby (strategic boardgames) recently. It doesn’t help much if you don’t fix the thing you’re running from, which is ultimately a (perceived) low life quality.

    No amount of self-improvement can compensate for a lack of self-acceptance. It just bothers me that it goes sooo fucking slow. Some days – like this – you just want to opt out.

    Fuck you life, today I’m gone – I’ll deal with you tomorrow.

    • Thanks Simon, glad to hear you like the Simpsons as well! I’d never considered the dopaminergic aspect of this, but you could be right. And ultimately, like you said, it comes down to self-acceptance. There are plenty of people who can play fantasy video games as much as they want and have it never be an issue for them. For others, not so much.

  27. I find that I’m dissatisfied with life, the universe and everything. I am not attractive enough, and most other people are even less attractive than I am. I’m not smart enough, and I’m smarter than most people. Life is not stimulating enough. Mostly, it’s full of very boring things. Life is full of all kinds of problems that are never really solved. There’s a lot of pain and misery of all kinds. And the vast majority of people, including myself, are slaves to money. We can’t spend time, money and effort on the things we’d like to, because we have to spend our money on things like mortgages and health insurance, and we have to work all day 5 days a week to make the money to spend on those things.

    My inability to do anything very effective about the things I don’t like about life drive me to fantasize about an alternate reality in which I do have the ability to do effective things about the various problems and inadequacies, for myself and for others too. The tendency to escape into fantasy is bad enough that I’m not nearly as productive as I’d prefer to be, for the people in my life who depend on me.

    So my problem is a lack of a willingness to accept reality. I know that. But I can’t change it. The fact is I’m not happy with reality, I can’t change the way I feel about reality, and I can’t change reality. At least not enough for me to be happy with it.

    Sometimes “God” or someone or something that may as well be God grants some of my wishes, from time to time. Sometimes I ask, and the sun comes out, or. Something that wasn’t working starts working again, or lots of things like that. A woman with a slipped disc got healed. One x-ray showed it was clearly there, another later one showed it clearly wasn’t there anymore. The pain was there, and then later it wasn’t. The doctors were at a loss to explain it. I once asked that a lonely guy I knew would find a girlfriend, and the very next day, he met a girl, and started dating her. For first time in his life.

    So sometimes I get some help, and it helps some, but for the most part I’m pretty much stuck with the stuff I don’t like. Sometimes whoever or whatever it is that grants my wishes grants a wish that I wouldn’t be so dissatisfied with things, and I feel better, and I’m less prone to fantasy. For a little while.

    I just hope there’s a next life and that it isn’t as crappy as this one.

  28. This was painful to read but it conforted me because I’ve been doing this for years. I remember exactly when it started. I was starting to feel depressed but it was just the beginning… Well, i saw that guy on Tv and I somewhat found him attractive and on the road back to home I daydreamed about him (I didn’t even know what I was doing) and I enjoyed. I would do it everytime I would go back home from that place. Then, I started doing it before sleeping and then during the day. I started to switch the characters, the stories, the places. But yeah, I realized that I was doing it to escape the world. I wasn’t happy with my life and creating a total brand new life in my head where I would have full control was amazing. I still do this today, maybe even more. I do it when I’m bored I can somehow control it but I know that I need it. I need to escape the world. It hurst sometimes because you know it’s not reality and probably never will.

    The only thing positive coming out from my daydreams is a story that I have developed. I started writing it but I’m lazy and I don’t think I have a gift for writing but I do think writing it down is a great idea.

    Anyway, it feels good to see that I’m not the only one. I hope we will all somehow find happiness in the real world one day.

    Sorry for my english.

  29. my English is not good so sorry about mistakes!
    I’m dealing with the same problem for almost 10 years .Sometimes i even think that my fantasy world is real !!! it caused so many problems in my real life and lost my best years of youth for practically “NOTHING”. i’m starting to control my thoughts but it’s so hard and if i’m in pressure, stories start again. every time i get tired of one character, immediately i create better one. it’s like addiction and i feel i need serious help from someone. i just want to be normal like others. i create someone in my head that help me and remind me that even one percent of my real personality is so much better from Nothing, just hold tight Soon you’re gonna see your brighter day. i was sleep for along time so it’s natural to wake up slowly!

    • I’m sorry to hear that you’ve had an issue with this, Raha! I think it might be worthwhile to get professional help if this is a serious problem for you.

  30. I think fantasy world isn’t that bad,i have been picked on where ever i go by any people i find.that it has got me to think that am the centre of attention when people are even talking about their own things.it has lowered my self esteem because those that i put my hope in to help me,only hurt me in the long run.i now decided to have my fantasy world as a friend where my real friends are not.it has got me back to my feet,to express myself and raise my head when my enemies speak.i think how you form your world matters,if its based on horror,your likely to kill,if based on just simple isues,then your likely to cope.

  31. Hi. Just wanted to thank you for this article. I’ve been in a constant state of escapism since I was a child and as a result I didn’t get to enjoy connecting with other people throughout my adolescent and young adult years.
    This article express exactly why I’ve been trying to figure out by myself and fit perfectly in my efforts to change that.
    So thank you, again.

  32. Hi I’m Rebekah. Im 14 and for as long as I can remember I have lived in my own fantasy world. If anyone knows a good real therapist please tell me.

    • Hi Rebekah,

      Are you in the UK? You can seek help from your GP or look at the Mind website for links to where to find therapists.

      All the best,

      Shreeya

  33. Hi Mikey D,
    I agree with your article. I have recently been reflecting about the human mental disorders such as fantasy, obsessions and addictions. People use them to try to achieve “happiness”. I believe life is all about finding a balance and ACCEPTING our imperfections. The stress of life can be overwhelming for many people this is why they choose to live in a fantasy rather than reality and I don’t really blame them! Thank you for confirming my hypothesis about the disease of “fantasy (escapism)” and how it can affect my life.

  34. I found your every word so true… It really indicates my life right now…
    I remember when I was in high school final 1 month before the exam my sister found out that I am nill in studies and have wasted my time in coaching studying nothing…
    I was so horrfied by the thought of getting fail in exam that I studied my asses off for the exam. That was hell of a situation it was huge pressurr on me. But I scored well.
    After that I took drop for medical entrance exam and thats when problem started I started living alone as all my friends were od different stream.
    And when exam came near I escape into fanatsy world… I started to this very often and now I am entirely living in a fantasy world. My exams area after 3 moths. Please help me. Do connecting with other students and people can overcome this. I need to crack the exam.
    Please help
    I need it very badly. My life depends on it
    I cannot go to counseling.
    Please contact me +9182697926166
    Aakash.dby@gmail.com
    Aakash dubey recently posted..Impostor Syndrome: Why Success Makes You Feel Like A FraudMy Profile

    • I’m sorry to hear about your situation Aakash, but I do not feel qualified to help you with this. If it is truly a problem for you, counseling is the way to go.

  35. Thanks
    I am a teacher working with a very diversive market in South Africa (Special needs /difficult) I enjoy it but looking for reasons
    Trying on daily base convincing learners own opinions during tasks and work in class
    Learners difficult to think , cope and reason Rather “copy and past”than own opinion – Learners : Rather in “fantasy” Low self esteem Teaching techniques Using power point and media clips ext = Nothing ! Escaping reality? Will not stop trying 🙂 Website positive

  36. chaunte talbot says:

    i started this when i was 13 however i never knew what it was, i tried to research it on google however they showed me this next disorder call fantasy prone personality which wasnt really what i thought i had. i thought i was messed up and the only person that does this was me, so seeing this article and seeing all of these comment makes me feel a little bit better now that i know i am not alone. but now i am 18 and my life just crumbled in a span of 5 months and before i knew it i had nothing, and there was nothing i could do about it.no, not like ‘i broke up with my boyfriend’ typical teenager bullshit, but real llife situations ( mental hospitals back to back for depresion, neglect, financial, emotional, verbal, and physical abuse from both parents, missing prom and graduation because i was in the mental facility, going shelter to shelter, moving city to city, harrasmenet, my dad being in jail, and then my mother leaving me in the middle of nowhere with no one to help me and no money to even buy a donut and she didnt even give a shit.) type problems. so fantasizing is something i like to do to forget about the bad things im going through at the age of 18. now its the only thing that makes me happy. and no, my mom didnt come back for me. she never will.

  37. limenlemony says:

    Hi
    Read the post and identify with it.However unable to help my friend for so many years.He is suffering since 12 years.He understands it is illogical but cannot maintain the right reasoning for long.As with withdrawal symptoms he gets demotivated and loses the purpose of life if he starts believing his fantasy world will not materialise in future.,He is happy in this dream and his goal in life is to make his fantasy world real.His fantasy world is basically about inter racial marriage and totally against his own nationality marriage.He is in love with the idea of inter racial marriage and last 12 years has never dated a girl.All efforts to date a girl is proved futile and hence never been on a date.Yet he gives absurd reasons for why not one girl went for a single date with him.The reasons are beyond logic.When logic is repeatedly explained to him,he understands but gets demotivated and then rushes back into the fantasy world where he gets the girl and motivation is restored.
    He in reality is unable to even date a girl.He says he will be happy only if his fantasy comes true and hence all reality is avoided.This is going on for years.Into counselling too but no breakthrough.
    Would appreciate all help through responses.

  38. Of course this article makes sense, but it’s like telling somebody who is stressed “DON’T STRESS OR I’LL KILL YOU!” Many people escape reality because their reality sucks and even if it’s unproductive they’d rather live in a fantasy just to numb the pain. It’s the same process as junkies who become junkies because of a lack of social connection in their life. Put them in a positive and nurturing environment and their addiction will go away. One can say it is because these people escape reality that they’re unhappy, but one can also say it is because they’re unhappy that they escape reality. But you’re right, the first step is to get aware of the problem and why it is so. Only with this in mind can one person try to recover, each step at a time. Beautiful website, by the way.

    • Thank you, I appreciate the compliment! Yeah….it’s not easy to stop practicing escapism – but there are different degrees of it, and the more “mild” ones that most people experience absolutely can be addressed without claiming that “reality sucks”. I would argue that the vast majority of people who practice escapism don’t have externally difficult lives. Many do, of course, and they may require more than reading this blog post to get relief.

  39. this article has really opened my eyes. I’ve been struggling with escapism since high school and I constantly ran away from the reality world to my fantasy world to escape lots of problems. I know it won’t be easy but I’ll do my best to fight it off, cause so far, it has only ruined my life, not make it better.

  40. My leaving reality to fantasy gets me in trouble with women. When I’m with a woman and we end up parting ways, even when intellectually I know I want this; when their gone my mind fantasies about the relationship and then I’ll say anything to get them back. I fantasize about being able to look over the young child I would be a parent to if we got married even when the reason I left the relationship due to not wanting to raise a 7 year old now that I’m in my 50’s. Then when reality sets back in I can’t believe my thoughts of wanting that relationship back. The problem is when I’m in my fantasy I’m texting her speaking of my love for her and wanting to adopt her child. I’m hurting people and children especially. I need strategies to combat my fantasy before I create any more carnage. Help….,

  41. anonymous says:

    I am a student and preparing to achieve my goal. It is a life battle for me. But I do suffer from this problem. I have read this article. Are you a Psychologist? It will be of a great help to me if I can get your email Id.

  42. Thanks a lot.

  43. Dear Mickey,

    thank you very much for this post. I have invested years and significant therapy work into dealing with depression, panic attacks and the consequences of untreated ADHD, and really got most of my life together – except for that pesky thing with my behavioural addictions. Just now it is threatening my job, so I thought I better get serious about getting better and started doing my research. I regularly read or binge-watch for days with little food and no sleep until I physically collapse (even if I am supposed to work), so I guess it is pretty straightforward to classify my behaviour as addiction. But the truth is that for me books and TV shows are just the food for a fantasy world I escaped into since primary school. Breaking with a bad habit I have successfully cultivated for 30 years will be hard, but your article provides an great frame of reference and starting point for thinking about my thinking. And considering the comments you received – if I can’t find a self-help group for escape artists, maybe I’ll just start one. With a phone chain for wake-up calls!

    • I’m glad this post was helpful, Ellen. I think there would be significant demand for a self-help group if you started one. There’s definitely matters of degree, but it seems like this is an incredibly common problem.

  44. I realize this is an old post, but I just wanted to let you know how helpful I found your post. I especially loved the strategy of manipulating your own environment and am going to put this to good use.
    Thanks,
    Kim

    • Thanks for the comment, Kimberlee. I’m glad you found this useful!

    • Mickey D

      I wish to affirm this as well. I found this piece while researching for articles on escapism in the context of social media use. It speaks to me personally and I hope to share your insights with more people. Thanks very much for your post!

      mc

  45. Divyanshu bhatia says:

    Student time study is really important but I can’t because of this fantasy world in my mind I don’t now how i am doing this but it give me pleasure but after come back in reality I feel like a looser because my goal wishes dream all I can done in my illusion in my mind and after that my energy is over to do something I spend 2 to 4 hrs in just thinking in fantasy world but we can’t escape from reality. Quickly and powerful bond to live in imaginary while I am listening song watch some TV or films life or after seeing bad reality and want if I can…. U know what I mean please please please please give me just quick ideas not good nor beeter it will be best ideas ever i am in big trouble get me out from it no time left for me please reply waste I will always thankful of u for that

  46. I found this site yesterday and have been reading the main post and comments all of which are very helpful. I’m 54 and have been using fantasy as an escape since I was 8. Sooo that was long before the internet, had to just use my mind as the vehicle to take me to a place I felt safe and wanted, neither of which I felt at my home.
    I had a therapist try to tell me what I had been doing throughout my life, just a year ago, but I quit because I didn’t want to hear it.

    In a way I blended or tried to blend reality with fantasy. I would throw myself at men who were out of my league and they would accept me, for a while, usually just to have sex. Either I knew this somehow and didn’t care, or I convinced myself that they really did love me, if I could just fix some small things about myself. I guess that is the bargaining part of the grief process, which I would go through when they broke up with me, or tried to break up with me.

    Sometimes I would go out with guys who had once been very successful, but then got an addiction or had some kind of mental problem which led them to not be high functioning any longer. A lot of these guys had high I.Q.’s, so I guess my fantasy was that with my help, they would drop their addiction or their mental dysfunction, and would become high functioning again, we would get married and live happily ever after. I tried this many many times. These guys would be good looking and intelligent and have fun personalities, just that they were usually way under achieving.

    I guess the same was true for me, except that I didn’t have a high I.Q. and had never gone to a great college or had a great job. I guess I’m mixing up two different ways that I used to delude myself that I could have a really high achieving boyfriend/husband, without ever putting in the work to be an achiever myself: either I would throw myself at a guy who was doing really well, and it would last less than a month and then I would take months or years to “let go”, or i would choose the down and out guy and try to re-habilitate him, whether he wanted to be re-habilitated or not. LOL

    So to stay with the main purpose of Mikey D’s I won’t go into the fact that I was a very heavy drinker from 14-53. It was just another form of escape ALONGSIDE all my fantasizing. Anyway so I stopped drinking but then all the TV and internet and regular old fantasizing kicked in. One more thing though. When you are young and pretty, men don’t mind so much if you throw yourself at them. But after 50… there are fewer men that I would want to throw myself at, who would also accept me, even for a fling.

    I really appreciate everybody’s comments and Mikey’s original post. I would just say that there are a lot of people on here a lot younger than me and… I think that if you can have the courage to accept who you are at this exact point in your life, no matter how painful that is, it will not be as painful as waking up at 54 and realizing that you traded in a life that could have been pretty good, or even great, for a life that was nothing except fantasy.

    You know, eventually I did get married, but even during that marriage, i refused to accept the reality of the situation, which was not that bad. I kept wanting it to be something that it wasn’t. I kept wanting him to make more money, for us to live in a fancier place, etc., etc. But if i had accepted reality and actually worked, in real life, to make that reality just a little better, we both could have been a lot happier. I even spent a lot of time fantasizing about an old boyfriend, which was totally unfair to my husband. i convinced myself that I was miserable, but refused to do any real work in real life to make my circumstances better. I just kind of said “F**k the world” and kept drinking and fantasizing. If you are young, please don’t do this. Please go easy on yourself and the people around you and just try to be OK with who you are and where you are, even if you think that it SUCKS. Then go out and try over and over and over to make your reality better, little bits at a time. And like some others have said here, asking the Universe for help works really well too, if you can be humble enough to do that.

    Thanks Mikey for your thought provoking article!

    • Thank you for the powerful story and good advice, Val. In particular, this is said very well:

      I think that if you can have the courage to accept who you are at this exact point in your life, no matter how painful that is, it will not be as painful as waking up at 54 and realizing that you traded in a life that could have been pretty good, or even great, for a life that was nothing except fantasy.

      You’ve likely made the connection already, but it is important that *you* recognize that it is better to wake up and realize that at 54 than it will be at 74. It would be easy enough to say “I’m too old to change”, but I suspect that nearly everyone has the opportunity to realize that they should have been living in the real world at some point before they die, so I don’t think many people get to “miss out” on the sadness of having these kinds of regrets. As such, it is best for just about everyone, at any age, to start making progress on this.

  47. David Garrard says:

    Wow… very helpful. I’ve been worried about myself and my son who is 24 and doesn’t have a job. I’m basically a go to work and come home person with no extra money for anything else. My son spends his day watching his favorite shows and playing video games. He is very good at playing video games and has said many times that he wants to go pro. Even though he does this I still prod him to look for a job…a temp job…something easy just to get him working again. But… he finds every excuse in the book not to find one… In fact I’ve even found some on craigslist that he could apply to now and work tomorrow but they weren’t for him. Sooo I’m worried about him. As for me…Hell I’m a classic introvert with dreams of being something I’m not…haha I watch TV the news and play video games myself for my own entertainment. For the most part though I feel happy….I think….:) I kind of like being alone or at least with a small group of people around… like maybe McDonald’s around 2:30pm. I’ve been worried, not only for myself but for my 6 kids….at the moment my son who is 24 and 100% healthy lives with me. He is my main worry. I’d like to not only change myself somewhat but figure out a way to change or help start my son down a better path. One that is more healthy. Any ideas?…:
    )

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  1. […] online, provides a method of dealing or coping with their everyday lives. Feelhappiness.com has an article discussing the fact that being somebody else allows us to avoid spending time with ourselves. […]

  2. […] Escapism: Leave Your Fantasy World And Live In Reality – Feel Happiness. […]

  3. […] “Escapism: Leave Your Fantasy World and Live in Reality.” Feel Happiness. June 8, 2014. Accessed February 2016. http://feelhappiness.com/escapism-leave-fantasy-world-live-reality/ […]

  4. […] Escapism: Leave Your Fantasy World And Live In Reality. [online] Feel Happiness. Available at: http://feelhappiness.com/escapism-leave-fantasy-world-live-reality/ [Accessed 22 Nov. […]

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