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Our primary goal for treatment is always to help clients find freedom from drugs or alcohol and provide them with the tools they need to reach new levels of health, happiness and success in recovery.



Addiction is an insidious disease, and when you or a loved one needs help it can be hard to know where to turn. We understand. That’s why we have highly trained admissions specialists ready to walk you through a free, brief, and confidential screening.




Escapism: When It’s Healthy, When It Harms - The Meadows Malibu

Escapism: When It’s Healthy, When It Harms

Written By:

By Mandy Parsons

We’ve all done it … stayed up late bingeing our favorite Netflix series, lingered in the bathroom to browse social media, enjoyed a cheesy romance novel, or played hours of video games.

Sometimes we indulge for entertainment. Other times we are looking for a distraction from the daily grind. In most instances, escapism isn’t harmful.

It’s important to evaluate whether your escapism is a healthy form of self-care or a potentially dangerous habit.

The problem occurs when we escape a little too often for a little too long, or when escaping interferes with our daily life. This can be a sign that we are addicted to escapism. It’s important to evaluate whether your escapism is a healthy form of self-care or a potentially dangerous habit.

What Is Escapism?

Escapism is defined by the Merriam-Webster Dictionary as “habitual diversion of the mind to purely imaginative activity or entertainment as an escape from reality or routine.”

What are we trying to escape? For many of us, it may be a stressful work environment, chronic illness, abuse, grief, family drama, or other relational conflict. For me, a stay-at-home mother of two elementary-aged children, it’s a break from the endless housework, grocery runs, playdates, and activities.

As previously mentioned, escapism can take many forms. It would seem that society encourages us to escape through media consumption, whether that be reality TV, Hallmark movies, true crime podcasts, gaming, or social media.

But we can seek diversion in other ways too. Many people escape by shopping, traveling, gambling, or using drugs and alcohol.

Escapism: Helpful or Harmful?

Is escapism bad? The answer is, not necessarily. Therapist Kelly Kitley addresses the pros and cons of escapism in a recent Beyond Theory podcast interview, saying that sometimes we all need to “check out and kind of pretend” that life is beautiful and perfect.

For some people, this temporary reprieve refuels them and boosts their mood. However, others use constant escapism as a mechanism to avoid dealing with deeper issues. This is when escapist behavior becomes problematic.

A study shared by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) supports the idea that escapism is motivated by a desire to avoid negative emotions. The research also revealed that escapist coping mostly only provides “momentary relief instead of sustainable well-being,” and often leads to additional problems.

Escapism is not meant to be a solution to life’s troubles. We still need to do the difficult work to find lasting resolution. Additionally, too much escapism is linked to other excessive behaviors, as well as mental health concerns like anxiety and depression.

Are You Addicted to Escapism?

Is your escapism a means of occasional recreation, or do you find yourself living more in that alternate space than in reality?

So how do you know whether your escapism is a harmless pastime or an actual escapism addiction? Here are some questions to consider:

  • How Often Do You Escape?

How much time do you spend escaping? Do you escape in moderation or to an extreme? Is your escapism a means of occasional recreation, or do you find yourself living more in that alternate space than in reality?   

  • Why Do You Escape?

What are your reasons for escaping? Is it simply to relax? Or, if you are being honest with yourself, is it to avoid facing complex thoughts, feelings, or circumstances? If you are using escapism as a substitute for proactive coping strategies, you should seek help.

  • How Does Escapism Affect Your Life?

Does escapism interfere with your ability to function? Is it triggering other addictions or destructive habits that affect your quality of life?

Seeking Healthy Escape

If you believe you may have an escapism addiction, the good news is that there are positive ways to escape as well. Try incorporating any or all of the following strategies:

If your escape involves consuming too much of a substance, Kitley suggests you “play the tape forward” and think about how you are going to feel the next day.

She also recommends giving yourself permission to “not feel that you have to be a certain way” in a given situation. Managing your expectations on the front end may prevent you from wallowing in disappointment or negative feelings later.

And lastly, Kitley suggests recognizing that “maybe your reality isn’t as bad as you may think that it is.” Focus on the positive that is right in front of you, and practice gratitude in every circumstance, as there is always a reason to be thankful.

If you suspect you might have an escapism addiction and could use help navigating difficult emotions, or struggle with substance abuse as a result, we at The Meadows Malibu are eager to help. Our individualized treatment is designed to meet your unique needs, interests, and lifestyle. Reach out today to learn more.