What Is Escapism and Is Escapism Bad?Aug 01, 2022
The link between escapism and mental health
What is escapism, and is escapism bad? I’m not a huge fan of labeling things in black and white terms like good or bad, but when it comes to avoidance, we can say that labeling escapism good or bad has its place depending on the situation.
Let’s first look at the question: what is escapism? Escapism is when someone tries to escape reality by engaging in activities that take them away from their lives and problems. These activities can be anything from surfing the internet or social media to playing video games or drugs/drinking and other vices that are incredibly harmful to the body.
Escapism is often used when someone wants to forget one’s problems or things that they’re dealing with, and while it can be helpful for a while, eventually, it will make things worse.
The Link Between Mental Health and Escapism
What happens when we ignore what’s really going on in our lives?
We all must know that shit can go sideways in our lives at any time. There’s no way that life is perfect 100% of the time (and by the way, there’s no such thing as “perfect” either). That’s delusional for any of us to think, so I’ll bet pretty much everyone is guilty of escapism in one form or another. But, the critical question becomes, for how long has someone been using escapism as a defense mechanism?
“Defense mechanisms in psychology refer to habitual ways of dealing with negative emotions, fear, and frustration. Psychological regression is an immature way of dealing with challenges. Drinking, overeating, and other escapism are all examples of regression.” (Pyschologia.co)
Trying to forget something that’s going on for a couple of hours or days is hugely different than trying to escape something in our lives for weeks, months, or even years. The longer we allow ourselves to spiral down the escape hatch, the more harm is done. This is how it links to mental health; escapism can lead to depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues.
This is when it gets to the point that we can safely label it as “bad.” Trying to forget (or escape) one problem can create a colossal trickle effect of other issues.
So, if you feel depressed, anxious, or stressed out, it might be because you’re trying to escape something. Maybe you’re trying to avoid having a challenging conversation with a toxic person in your life, dealing with a financial issue, or avoiding a problem in a relationship kind of issue (I’ve got a lot of details on how to deal with toxic people here).
Whatever it is, it’s not healthy to try to escape these situations. Instead, you should confront them head-on with clarity and control so as not to blow up at a situation (the “cool head” can do a lot of good when things aren’t going the way you thought they would).
Our mental health also depends on how honest we are to ourselves. Where's the stable ground if we’re lying to ourselves and others? This can be like trying to run in quicksand. It’s just not going to work…
Figuring Out What You’re Hiding From (and Why)
When we realize we’re avoiding essential things we should be paying attention to (or something that has gone down in our life), this is our chance to be brutally honest with ourselves and others. The unhealthy version of escapism is when it becomes avoidance; avoiding the shit going down will create other (potentially more significant) issues. How to get down to the raw truth with yourself:
Get honest. Is there something that you must tend to but keep ignoring? Just recognizing that you’ve been avoiding something is a big step. Is there a big thing that happened in your life, and you just keep putting it off and not doing anything about it? Step one is to get honest and start seeing through anything covering up the truth. I’ve got some empowering tips for being brutally honest with yourself in this video if you’d like to check it out here.
Look at what you’re avoiding and then start analyzing if you’re causing undue stress and hurting your mental health more than the actual “thing” that’s going on. Is it a big thing or a small thing? Is it that you’re avoiding paying bills? Is it a simple conversation that needs to happen but you just keep putting it off? A work problem? A toxic person in your life? Analyze every situation and start to uncover the deeper reasons why you’re avoiding it.
How long have you been avoiding it? Are you in the unhealthy escapism zone of ignoring something for way too long or in the “I just need some time” phase? Sometimes we need time to think things through, so jumping in and taking action isn’t always the best way to manage a situation. So, if you get more clarity, you can see the right plan of action that you’ll need to take.
Escapism can have its benefits in small doses. When something big happens, it can throw us into some intensities that we don’t want to be in. Allowing ourselves to feel (yep, men, that means us, too) the pain or whatever emotion we’re experiencing is important. But, we can’t wallow in self-pity or negative emotions for too long; that’s not where we want to get stuck. So, taking some time off to escape on a mini vacation or a day of some damn good self-care can help our minds get clear and deal with the situation in a much healthier way. The key point here is to deal with it at a later time… we can’t let some “time off” become avoidance (this is regression as noted above and not positive).
Taking Action and Making Connections
There are benefits to being active during weird times (or what I would call shitstorms). If we’re not careful, we can allow ourselves to get stuck in vices or doing things that cause us more pain. But if we think about moving through harder times by being active, we can allow our bodies and mental health to stay strong. This gives us a foundation we can move from to make better decisions. Physical activity improves your mood, reduces stress, and boosts self-esteem, so there are a lot of positive effects on our mental health.
Connecting with others is equally as important. Often if we get overwhelmed, we forget that we’re not really alone in what we’re going through; someone out there in the world will get it. This is where social media can become a positive tool, as we can search for someone else that might be feeling the same way and see how they dealt with the situation, or maybe it’s time to find a great coach/mentor or an online course that can help you get through the things you need to get through.
There is a link between escapism and mental health, no doubt.
What is escapism, and is escapism bad? And, can you even label escapism as good or bad? The answer is it can be both bad and good; it comes down to how long a person has used the defense mechanism of escapism.
There are key ways to uncover the reality of what’s happening, and all of them require being brutally honest with yourself (and possibly with others around you).