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I Imagine a Life I Don’t Have

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From a teen in Wales: I can’t stop imagining the life I don’t have. This problem started maybe 5 years ago and has been getting more frequently noticeable. I mainly pick up on real life celebrities or social figures who I like and place myself in a situation with them.

There have been times where I have been with family and had to excuse myself to the bathroom as I have thought of an amazing idea to act out. Although it is sometimes exclusive to my imagination, most of the time I will physically (and silently) act it out. Each character has their own personality and backstory and my own character fits in with the narrative perfectly. The relationships are usually brothers/significant others/best friends.

When I go into the real world I can switch it off – I don’t tend to think of the characters at all when I am at school and occupied. However, I find that I am at home most of the time and when I am bored/lonely the scenes seem to just happen from the moment I wake up to the moment I go to bed. They can be normal situations such as cooking dinner or sometimes I imagine we met doing the celebrities field of work, e.g pop star.

I am 16 years old and since the age of around 11 I have found that I do not fit in with the group of friends I currently hang out with. It’s not that I can’t socialise – I find that I am quite good at it actually – but rather that I don’t feel comfortable with the people I am with as I have multiple toxic friendships.

Also, the characters are rarely female. I grew up in a household of exclusively females as my father was not present throughout my life and I have no brothers. I also do not have many male friends in my real life but all of the people who I imagine in my head seem to be male.

I have also suffered with mental health problems since around the time this started as I was diagnosed with anxiety and depression at 12 or 13.

I am mostly interested in why I do this and whether it is normal. I can’t ask anyone in real life as I am ashamed that I spend my time creating characters. Any feedback is greatly appreciated. Thank you very much.

I Imagine a Life I Don’t Have

Answered by on -


Lonely kids often create imaginary friends to fill the void. You seem to have a more active imagination than most. Since you are able to socialize and you can switch it off, it’s not clear to me whether this has become a psychological problem or if you are developing a talent for creative writing. If you were seeing me for counseling, one suggestion I would make is to start writing to see if putting the ideas “on paper” would help you channel your tendency to create scenarios.

Since you have a diagnosis, I’m assuming you also have a counselor. If you don’t, I encourage you to get one. Please don’t be ashamed of sharing what you’ve shared here. A therapist will not judge you but will instead help you decide if this is a talent you should nurture or a problem you should solve — or both.

I wish you well,
Dr. Marie

I Imagine a Life I Don’t Have

Therapists live, online right now, from BetterHelp:

Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

Dr. Marie is licensed as both a psychologist and marriage and family counselor. She specializes in couples and family therapy and parent education. Follow her on Facebook or Twitter.

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2018). I Imagine a Life I Don’t Have. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 2, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 27 Apr 2018 (Originally: 1 May 2018)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 27 Apr 2018
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