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Overactive imagination? You might have a fantasy prone personality type


Are you more than a bit of a daydreamer? (Picture: Ella Byworth)

Have you ever found yourself lost in daydreams for the majority of the day? You could have what’s called a fantasy prone personality.

Fantasy prone people are often labelled as having an ‘overactive imagination’, but their condition can be a bit more extreme than that.

On the relative upside, people with a fantasy prone personality commonly have fantasy identities, can often feel sensations they imagine as if they’re actually real, and feel sexual pleasure without having to be touched.

However, on the downside, some fantasy prone people can also mix up their fantasies with real memories, have a hard time controlling their daydreaming, experience hallucinations and feel self-suggested psychosomatic symptoms.

In a New York Times article from 1987 on ‘the fantasy-prone’, Steven Jay Lynn, then a psychologist at Ohio University, said: ‘The fantasy-prone are completely immersed in their imaginary world, intensely involved.

‘These are not ordinary daydreams.’

According to the article, ‘the characteristics of the extreme fantasizers’ were found by Boston psychologists Sheryl Wilson and Theodore X Barber in the 70s when they were researching hypnotic suggestibility and found that 27 women who were very good hypnotic subjects also had fantasy lives that were ‘as real as real’.

Counselling Directory member Grace Warwick, who partly specialises in aspects of this personality type, explains: ‘The term Fantasy Prone Personality covers factors from being easy to hypnotise to individuals creating fantasy identities.

‘It also includes sensory experiences which would come into categories such as out of body, psychic or spiritual experiences. This is a broad base of factors to bring together but at the heart of all of them is the concept of consensual reality.

Some people struggle to tell the difference between fantasy and reality (Picture: Ella Byworth for Metro.co.uk)

‘We all will have experienced individuals that appear to be in a “world of their own” most of the time. In general, people are more accepting, and even encouraging, of children engaging in a fantasy life. Imaginary friends, special toys with a life of their own etc.

‘However, as we move into teenage and adult life a strong leaning towards fantasy can become increasingly problematic, both for the fantasiser and for those around them.’

She adds: ‘What is a harmless fantasy to one, such as trying on different personas, can be perceived as an outright lie or attempt to deceive by another.’

When it comes to the sensory symptoms of a fantasy prone personality, Grace says: ‘In terms of sensory reports of unusual or anomalous experiences, these can have very different effects on individuals.

‘For some it offers a connection to something “greater” and a sense of safety whilst to others it can challenge their belief system and lead to distress.’

If you find that you’re having trouble controlling your fantasy life, then Grace recommends seeking professional help.

Some can feel imagined sensations as if they’re real (Picture: Ella Byworth for Metro.co.uk)

She says: ‘When fantasy life or unusual sensory experiences become problematic it can be useful to work with a professional to get support with any underlying issues.

‘Fantasies may have originally developed as a coping strategy, a way of emotionally escaping from or dealing with negative childhood experiences. New ways of coping need to be introduced to support the transition into consensual reality for the fantasisers.

‘Work may be needed to reconnect the individual with the value of their true self and reduce reliance on the fantasy world. The fantasiser can learn to harness their imagination for more productive use, to improve relationships and connect more closely with others.

‘In terms of anomalous experiences, techniques are available to reduce or deal with the impact on them, though care needs to be taken as there is a large debate on the differential diagnosis between anomalous/spiritual experience and psychosis. It is essential to find a therapist with an appreciation of all sides of this debate.’

In your own time, Grace says you can also try mindfulness and gratefulness exercises.

She says: ‘Self help in this area can be found through mindfulness, through training in paying attention to the reality of the present moment and learning to take care of your needs within it.

‘Also, the daily practice of gratitude can assist someone to build an appreciation for their real world and those within it.’

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Get in touch by emailing MetroLifestyleTeam@Metro.co.uk

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