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Are you an escapist?

Updated: Dec 6, 2022

The literal definition of escapism is habitual diversion of the mind to purely imaginative activity or entertainment as an escape from reality or routine. 

In my opinion, to some extent, we all are escapists in one way or the other. Before I explain, let me ask you a few questions.

Have you ever sat through the night to play video games or read a book just to avoid sleeping or thinking about a particular negative situation or feeling in your life? 

Do you remember binge watching a show in spite of knowing that you have a long list of pending tasks or a test the next day? 

Haven’t we all procrastinated and diverted our mind to something that is not very meaningful or important at that point in time, as opposed to actually doing some meaningful or important work and facing reality?

I am sure that all of us have experienced either of the above mentioned situations or other similar situations in life. Let’s take a better look at escapism.

Why do we use escapism?

We all tend to resort to escapism in some way or the other to avoid reality (which mostly tends to be painful, traumatic, stressful or hold some negative feelings) and engage into something that is less painful to take our mind off the stresses that await us in reality.

What are the different forms of escapism?

Here are a few common ways in which people try to escape reality:

  • Scrolling continuously through social media for hours

  • Binge watching movies or shows

  • Reading books (generally finding comfort in a fantasy rather than facing reality)

  • Consuming alcohol

  • Smoking and taking drugs in different forms.

  • Overworking oneself (to escape the reality of one’s personal life problems and feelings)

  • Playing video games 

  • Listening to music or playing a musical instrument.

  • Engaging oneself with art and creativity – dancing, painting, acting, standup comedy, art and craft etc.

  • Cooking

  • Going for a ride or drive

  • Taking a vacation

  • Sleeping

If you take a look at the common forms of escapism listed above, you will notice that some of those methods are clearly unhealthy coping mechanisms which can cause a lot of harm and become stressors themselves rather than being stress-relievers. However, each individual has their own way of coping and trying to escape reality. People may sometimes prefer only one of the above-mentioned ways or maybe a combination of them when required. 

Is escapism productive for you?

Everyone faces various stressors different points in their life. Here, when I speak about stressors, I am referring to general day to day minor stressors, as well as major stressors that make us experience immense pain, trauma and other negative emotions in our lives. While the only way to overcome these stressors is to actually go through them and head-on face them, everyone may not be ready to do so. Hence, sometimes when we are not ready to face those stressors in our lives, we all need to take a break and escape from our painful and stressful realities. We need that escape so that we can regain our mental strength before we decide to deal with the stressors. Whenever we escape from reality using our own preferred methods, we are actually giving ourselves that mental rest and a break from thinking and acting on the stressors in our lives. 

Escapism can be productive in the following ways:

  • Dealing with life’s stressors may take a lot of time and efforts on our part and may even lead to a burnout. By using escapism, we take a break from our stressful reality, thus preventing us from reaching to the point of complete burnout.

  • Escapism at times tends to give a spark to our creativity and later we may come back to our regular life with the actual solutions to our problems and stressors.

  • Escapism can also be therapeutic at times because if you are constantly undergoing some stress, it can be harmful both to your physical and mental health. 

  • The mental rest and break that you get from your preferred method of escapism at times can boost your motivation to get back to reality and resolve the stressful situation once and for all. Escapism can sometimes renew your energy, motivation  and even perspective of looking at the stressful situation.

Can escapism be counter-productive and harmful for you?

Yes, if escapism can be productive and helpful, it can also be counter-productive and harmful. As mentioned above some of the unhealthy coping mechanisms like consuming alcohol, smoking and taking drugs in different forms, binge watching movies or shows, over working oneself, excessive sleeping etc. in the long term are not going to be productive for the individuals that use those methods. Additionally, other coping mechanisms which are supposedly more healthier ways of escapism can also be counter-productive if used excessively. 

Escapism can be counter-productive in the following ways:

  • Denial: Escapism may lead one to completely deny the existence of the stressful situation or painful reality. Example: Using escapism to not accept the death of a loved one or the breakup in friendship/romantic relationship etc. Excessive escapism and denial can lead to psychosis. This includes distortion or a complete loss of reality and may be accompanied by hallucinations, delusions and erratic and irrational thoughts or behaviors. 

  • Addictions: Our escapism techniques can also become our addictions which are obviously harmful to us. Examples: Alcohol addiction, smoking and drug addictions, internet, gaming and pornography addictions etc.

  • Procrastination: When we use escapism, it may also turn into excessive procrastination and we end up avoiding stressful tasks, deadlines, relationships, social commitments, personal commitments etc.

Takeaways from this article

  • There is no sure shot way of ensuring that escapism will be only productive and helpful for you. The results of using escapism differ from one person to another and also from one situation to another for the same person. 

  • Whenever you use escapism for a long period of time, it is bound to negatively affect your life, either physically, mentally, socially (by affecting your relationships with other people around you) or financially. 

  • Always using escapism to avoid your stressors and painful reality is not the solution and it is surely going to be counter-productive and harmful to you. 

  • You need to create a balance between using escapism as a coping mechanism and facing life’s stressors and reality. Whenever you use escapism, make sure that you are not using it for an extensive period of time and you finally do get back to reality to face your stressor or painful situation once you feel mentally ready to do so.

Incase if you feel that you need any help while dealing with life’s stressful situations or painful realities, feel free to contact a mental health professional who will be able to help and guide you through your situation in a better way.

Written by,

Ms. Nishita Vaswani

243 views2 comments


Feb 21, 2023

Informative ‼️


Nov 24, 2022

This article is so relevant and informative!

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