Living Too Much in a Fantasy World?

By Kristina Randle, Ph.D., LCSW

I have a lot of issues; please help me. I don’t even know where to start. I’m a 16 year old male living in New York. I am extremely shy and beat myself up over every mistake I’ve made. I literally see a mental picture of myself being punched, slapped, abused, shot, decapitated, multilated, head crushed with a building, etc. I feel deeply offended when criticized, I don’t “hang out” with my peers and feel inferior to them, never been to a party or other social gathering, I feel others are always judging me and they remember every mistake I’ve ever made even though it’s illogical to think so, I’ve never had a girlfriend, I find it hard to trust others, and my only escape is fantasies I indulge in while I’m alone.

I don’t leave my room and apartment unless I have to (school, for example). I do speak to and know people at school, but I don’t view them as “friends.” The only “person” I feel is a true friend is my stuffed animal — a puppy. I’ve created a personality for him, and he’s the only one I trust enough to talk to. I don’t talk to my parents. There have been times where I feel suicidal and Puppy always comforts me and tells me everything will be okay. I do have an exit plan in case things get too rough for me to handle or if something happens to Puppy. I do not think I can live without him.

I’ve been told I’m witty, clever, and humorous. The jokes I make are usually self-degrading but made in such a way that does not raise any red flags. I justify my lonliness by telling others “Disregard females; acquire currency.” But in reality, I hate being lonely. I devote 100% of my time to my studies in hopes of earning enough money to maybe give me more self esteem.

When I have too much free time, I think. I look back on my life and analyze different events that shaped me to who I am. Here is what I have concluded: I was constantly being picked on during elementary school because I was Chinese and because of the way I dressed, and people called me “chino.” Even other Asians picked on me for no apparent reason. I remember thinking to myself “Why don’t people like me?” My mom taught to not fight and just take insults as they come, and I did. Every day I just sat there and took insult after insult. One day I read in a book that the word “chino” meant “chinese” in spanish. When the next person called me chino at school, I said to him “Yea? so what?” I saw the confused look on his face and that’s probably how my sense of humor started. I realized I had the power to throw their insults back at them by turning them into a joke. Over time, this turned into self-degrading jokes and acts such as spitting on myself in order to gross out and scare away the bullies.

In middle school, I got in trouble for a joke I made and I was forced to see the counselor for a week. My parents didn’t know. After that, I toned down my jokes. In the 7th grade, I had just gotten a haircut (I hated every single one of my haircuts.) and was feeling more self-conscious than I usually was. On my way to band class, and to my surprise, this random girl came and gave me a hug. I didn’t know what to do, or what to say. I just stood there with my arms by my side like a statue while she hugged me. I didn’t hug her back. Over time, I had grown to like her. I was infatuated with her, but I didn’t know at the time, silly me thought it was “love.” A year later, overcoming my fear of rejection, I asked her out. Instead of giving me a solid yes or no, she said maybe. This “maybe” kept me in her grips for the better half of the year before my infatuation ended and I was able to rationally think again. By that time, the hugs have stopped. As the year went on, I noticed that she did what she did to me with every guy. Hug them, get close to them, a few months later move on to others. Rinse and repeat. After that, I promised myself to never get close to another female again. The emotional hell and drama just wasn’t worth it.

After graduating middle school and starting High School, I had become very cold and logical. Or atleast I tried. I acted like an a**hole for lack of a better term. I justified pushing others away by saying it was more trouble than it was worth; love is just a bunch of chemicals being pushed around in my brain. By Sophomore year, I let down some of the walls I built up and attempted to socialize. I still didn’t do the whole hanging out thing and my weekends were spent in front of a computer as always, but my social network got bigger. We helped each other when in need, but I still didn’t view them as friends and I certainly didn’t trust them enough to tell them what I’m wrting here now.

I am now a Junior, and my workload has more than tripled when compared to Freshman year. I’m majoring in Computer Science and am pushing myself with 3 college level courses and a monday-friday after school program doing computer work. I’ve become stressed out this year and I find myself indulging in my fantasies a lot more. The summer before my Junior year began, I found an anime on the Internet called Spice and Wolf. I was never much of an anime fan, but I watched a few episodes and became infatuated with the female character, Horo. Every time I lay on my bed, I retreat into my fantasy world where I’m holding her in my arms and everything is perfect.

I know she’s not real and a relationship with a cartoon character is impossible, but I feel happy when I’m in my fantasy world. Also, I think I may be addicted to self-loathing and the happiness feeling generated when I’m in my fantasy. Whenever I feel depressed and begin contemplating suicide, there’s this weird feeling I can only describe as black goo starting at my heart and spreading to the rest of my body. As it spreads, I feel a rush and I begin crying. As I cry, those mental images of self-hurt mentioned in the beginning come back again and I feel worthless. Those images and feelings trigger another “black-goo rush.” and it lasts for almost an hour. I feel the same rush when I’m in my fantasy cuddling with Horo except instead of black goo, I feel a light, “brown” sensation that spreads from my heart. Then, instead of crying, I feel an overwhelming sense of happiness and I’m actually smiling. I fear I may be addicted to these two feelings of intense sadness and intense happiness. I fear I may be wh*ring for attention and feeding my ego when this happens. For example, something bad but insignificant might happen and I’ll start beating myself up over it until I feel an overwhelming feeling of sadness and dread which will trigger the black goo rush. As for the intense happiness, I find myself saying “Horo and Puppy will always be here for you” whenever I feel lonely and I begin to dive back into my fantasy.

No one knows anything of what I just wrote. There are only 2 people on the planet that I trust enough to say this to while not anonymous like I am right now; myself and Puppy.

One last thing, whenever I’m in my depression cycles I analyze my life and what I wrote about my early life leading up to this point is what I have concluded to be the cause of my social awkwardness and loneliness.

Please help me. I don’t know if I’m coming off as arrogant or attention seeking, but I really can’t see myself being capable of having a girlfriend, or even being alive to see my High School graduation to be honest. I need help.

A. It must be frightening to not be able to trust anyone enough to ask for help. Not only is that frightening but it is a very lonely feeling. Clearly, you are struggling with multiple issues, most notably depression and suicidal ideation. I am glad that you decided to write because it gives me a chance to possibly shed light on your situation and to offer you hope.

Please know that this is not a hopeless situation. Actually, the opposite is true. You can be helped. Yes, there are issues to deal with but as you mentioned, this is the first time you have let anyone know that you need help. The fact is that by writing this letter you have begun the process of seeking help. In the grand scheme of things, writing an anonymous letter is only a small step in the process, but it is a step nonetheless.

You seem to be experiencing depression and suicidal ideation. You feel that there is little or no hope for you. You have a great deal of difficulty interacting with others, to the point where you completely avoid it and have created a fantasy world. In this fantasy world, you feel safe. You can be yourself without fear of what others might think of you. It’s a freeing feeling, which may even be addicting. That might explain why you increasingly find yourself reverting to the fantasy world. Psychologically, it’s a safe haven for you and thus you allow yourself increasingly more often to enter this realm. The increase in frequency may be psychologically preferable to you but it is problematic. It’s okay to daydream; we all do it from time to time, but the fear is that eventually you will not be able to “bring yourself back” from your fantasy world and that you will lose touch with reality completely. To lose touch with reality is to be psychotic.

I do not want to alarm you, but I would strongly advise you to seek help from a therapist immediately. This is the next step in the process. Writing a letter is the first step. Asking for help and presenting your situation to a mental health professional, face-to-face, are the next necessary steps. I strongly recommend therapy because you are struggling with serious issues and your way of handling the situation is to slip into a fantasy world. The danger is, as I mentioned above, that you will be unable to return to reality. I worry this might happen to you and that is why you should consider talking to a therapist about these issues. He or she could address these issues and teach you new skills that will equip you to live in the “real world.” Remember, the fantasy world is not real. It is made up of imaginary people, places and ideas. It is okay to fantasize and to use your imagination, but not to the point where you feel compelled to escape into fantasy because you fear reality.

The biggest concern, of course, is that you are depressed and suicidal. That makes it all the more important that you seek help immediately.

If you are not sure how to speak to your parents about this, then give them this letter and my response. If you do not want go to your parents, then give this letter to a school counselor or school official. If you believe that you might harm yourself or someone else, call emergency services immediately or take yourself to an emergency room. Lastly, if you are feeling overwhelmed or confused, call 800-273-8255 to speak to a counselor trained to deal with suicidal thoughts. It is the number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. It is a 24-hour, toll-free suicide prevention service available to anyone in suicidal crisis.

One last thing: you wrote at the end of your letter that you know you need help. You have a strong sense that something is wrong. The good news is that everything you wrote about is treatable, but it requires that you ask for help. I understand that you may be frightened but please know that getting help is nothing to fear. Millions of people are helped by mental health professionals and it changes their lives for the better. Good luck.

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 20 Nov 2009

APA Reference
Randle, K. (2009). Living Too Much in a Fantasy World?. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 21, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2009/11/20/living-too-much-in-a-fantasy-world/