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Escapism is not defined by the behaviour itself but the motivation behind it. Anything from sport to fashion to sex can become escapist activities. Certain escapist options are socially accepted, such celebrity worship, others are not, such as recreational drug use.

Escapism art: artist unknown


We interpret escapism as an indication that people are unhappy with the lives they are leading - whether due to material deprivation or cloying overconsumption.

Debate: good or bad

There has been growing tendency of people of removing themselves from daily life – especially into the digital world. Many activities that are normal parts of a healthy existence (e.g., eating, sleeping, exercise, sexual activity) can also become avenues of escapism when taken to extremes or out of proper context; and as a result the word "escapism" often carries a negative connotation, suggesting that escapists are unhappy, with an inability or unwillingness to connect meaningfully with the world and to take necessary action.

However, many challenge the idea that escapism is fundamentally and exclusively negative. C. S. Lewis was fond of humorously remarking that the usual enemies of escape were jailers; and considered that used in moderation escapism could serve both to refresh and to expand the imaginative powers.Similarly J. R. R. Tolkien argued for escapism in fantasy literature as the creative expression of reality within a Secondary (imaginative) world.

Psychological escapes

Freud considered a quota of escapist phantasy a necessary element in the life of humans: “they cannot subsist on the scanty satisfaction they can extort from reality. 'We simply cannot do without auxiliary constructions', as Theodor Fontane once said” His followers saw rest and wish fulfilment (in small measures) as useful tools in adjusting to traumatic upset; while later psychologists have highlighted the role of vicarious distractions in shifting unwanted moods, especially anger and sadness. On the other hand, if permanent residence is taken up in some such psychic retreats, the results will be negative and even pathological. Drugs cause some forms of escapism which can occur when certain mind-altering drugs are taken which make the participant forget the reality of where they are or what they are meant to be doing.