Escapism: Helpful or Harmful?


Have you ever drowned yourself for hours in fantasy fictions?

Have you ever wished to join the battle against aliens in sci-fi realms?

Did you find video games comforting?

If yes, you have made acquaintances with a coping method called escapism.

In psychology, escapism definition is related to voluntary distraction or detachment from the real world. Escapism doesn’t always mean reading, watching, or playing any entertainment forms. Even simple daydreaming is an act of escapism.

Some people think escapism as a good thing, while others dismiss it as useless, nonproductive, or even harmful. The question is: when does escapism become useful? What’s the limit before it becomes harmful?

Escapism as a Coping Mechanism

Many people (probably including you) have used escapism as a coping mechanism against stress. When your everyday responsibilities become overwhelming, it is great to take a break from the “real world.” Your favorite novels, games, or movies take your mind away from complaining managers, demanding clients, or bad traffic.

Escapism is also good to reduce burnout, which is extreme exhaustion caused by chronic stress. Without escapist strategies, you will feel tired and unable to finish even the simplest tasks. You can read, play, or watch movies to escape small stresses in daily life. Without coping strategies, your small stresses can accumulate into a more severe condition.

Finally, escapism helps you reducing the attacks of external stimuli. A simple escapist strategy, such as daydreaming will take you to examine inner thoughts. It is something that we don’t do enough in this fast-paced, distracting era.

Is Escapism Harmful?

Escapism may be good for the short term. However, this coping method can also harmful if you use it excessively.

Imagine you have serious problems at work that affect your daily performance, such as passive-aggressive coworkers or sexist managers. You probably can reduce your work-related stress by playing games or exploring social media for a few hours. However, if you don’t work on the real root problem, you will forever feel stressed.

Escapism can also prevent you from looking at reality. Facing the truth or actual problem may be unpleasant, but they are necessary for better mental health. If you want to grow and have a better life, you should reduce escapism and start working on real solutions for current problems.

How to Stop Depending on Escapism

Escapism is not a bad or good thing. You only need to know when to use it. When your problems require direct actions, you must know when and how to switch coping methods.

Here are several ways to train your mind from using escapism too much:

  • Replace one positive thing with another

Have you ever refused a dinner invitation from a friend just to play games? Try having dinner with a friend instead of playing for once. Meeting your friend is a positive activity, but with more “real life” impact than games. Remember, your games will still wait for you when you come home.

  • Refuel, not escape

The word “escapism” creates a sense that you are “running away” from problems. Change how you see it by replacing the word “escapism” with “refueling.” The latter implies that you only have me-time to refresh your mind, before coming back and tackling the problem with better mental stamina.

  • Reduce the escapism dose

You don’t need to leave your fantasy books, games, or movies, but reduce their doses. Instead of reading or binge-watching for five hours during weeknights, try reducing them to one hour before bed. Spend longer hours only on weekends or on holiday.

  • Switch fantasy into the real world

Instead of just drowning in books, movies, or games, why not try making them a reality? Choose activities that have more productive values from your escapism. Write original stories and send them to publishers. Have urban exploration sessions in your hometown. Sign up for online courses and learn stuff like programming, drawing, or foreign languages.

You can still have your escapism, but sometimes you must immerse in the real world to grow and have a better coping mechanism.

Ask Yourself: Why Do You Need Escapism?

When you found yourself using escapism too many times, it’s time to ask: why do you need it?

Remember, escapism is a stress relief and refueling tool, not an eternal solution. You cannot finish a stack of deadlines or utility bills by reading Harry Potter for hours. Reflect your life for the past several months or years, and think: what are the things that stress you the most? What problems that make you feel like running from?

Once you notice the problems, find practical ways to solve them. Talk to your superior or teacher. Call your family members or trusted friends. Rearrange your life priorities and look for new opportunities if possible. When you are trying to repair your life, you can use small doses of escapism to help you going through.


Escapism definition emphasizes on the “running away.” However, you can switch it to “refueling,” giving you a healthy coping mechanism for small stress. Facing your real problems and solving them with actual solutions are the best ways to nurture your mental health.

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