Fantasy Worlds Taking Over

By Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

Hello. I am a 14 year old female and as long as I can remember I have always had a world in my head. It started out as just me creating creating episodes of a television show or chapter of a book to help me fall asleep ( I must have been 2-3 years old when I first remember starting ). Then I would think about it when we were on a long drive ( which my family and I have always gone on. These drives usually last 1-6 hours ). Music triggers a sort of inspiration to think about the world. With these worlds I would fixate on one particular character from the story ( it would always be the same. I would become obsessed with this world and especially said character ) and have them go through some sort of traumatic event, whether it be the get physically or emotionally hurt. When I first came up with these worlds I would create a chapter and then I would move on to the next one ( as if the previous did not exist ) but as I grew older they became more and more advanced so that each character had their own backstory and I knew whether or not they would be killed by the end of the story or not. In 5th grade I went through a block that lasted 2-3 years where I could not find something that I liked enough to make a world of. Then in 7th grade I found a television show called “N.C.I.S” and made it my world. I became more immersed with this world than any other in all my life. I watched it everyday from 5-8 o’clock and would become so excited that I could not sit still or I would accidently emit high-pitched squeals. I stopped visiting my only friend ( who had been my best friend for 2-3 years ) because I did not want to miss any episodes.I only liked this show for about 4 months, when I first started watching the 6th season had just finished. By the time the 7th aired I had seen every episode 2 or more times and had all the dvd’s ( except the 6th because it wasn’t out ). When I finally realized what an atrocious show it was I began to build my own world. It is a very perculier, fantastical world that would take much more than 300-400 words to explain so I am just going to say thinking about it is all I do. I force my mother to take me on long drives so I can think about it or I go on walks that typically last for 4+ hours ( which consist of me pacing back and forth through the woods just thinking ). I get so nostalgic for my world to be real that it makes me suicidal sometimes because I know the world will never be that way. I have no friends and hate social interaction because nobody is like anyone in my world and nobody wishes the world were the way I do. In 8th grade I missed 58 days of school and was late 72 days ( by late I mean about 2 hours late so that I could go on a drive because that was the only way I would go to school ). I hate going to school because it is just a constant reminder of how my life will never be the way I long for it to be. I have been diagnosed with social phobia and yes talking to others makes me nervous (but that is just because I lack expirience) but I strongly doubt that is my only problem. In the past I have planned on killing myself and planned every detail but never worked up the motivation. I sincerely hope you will respond but of course understand if you do/can not. Thank you either way.

A: Here’s what I think. I think you are an amazingly creative person who is a novelist in the making. But I also think your imagination and creativity have gotten linked with the social phobia. What started out as a creative time in your imagination now has become a way to avoid a social world where you never feel as competent or as confident as you do in the world in your head. Of course, the longer you stay in that world, the less experience you have in the real one so you continue to lose confidence and competence. And around and around it goes. Of course you want to be in your fictional world. It’s where you feel safe. It’s where you don’t have to deal with feeling out of it and friendless.

I suggest two things. First — Do write that stuff down. You’ve been rehearsing and refining your fantasy novel for years. It deserves to see the light of day. Once you get it on paper, you’ll see where it’s perfect and where it really needs more work if other people are to understand it. Get yourself a book about how to get published and give it a try.

Then — Get yourself into some therapy to deal with the social phobia head on. Yes, it will be hard. Yes, you will be asked to start to wade into some social activities. But first you’ll be taught some social skills so you will have the tools you need to be successful. Think of it as material. You’ll learn a lot about human relationships that will help you make your characters even more three-dimensional. Since you are so experienced in using characters to try out different realities, it might even be helpful to make up a character to go through the skills training with you.

If you need some encouragement along the way, keep the phone number for the Boys and Girls Town Hotline with you. Counselors are there 24/7 to talk to teens who are struggling and who need some support now and then. Their number is: 800-448-3000.

I wish you well. And I hope to read that novel someday.
Dr. Marie

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 3 Nov 2011

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2011). Fantasy Worlds Taking Over. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 22, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2011/11/03/fantasy-worlds-taking-over/