In this article we will explore the fantasy prone personality, its characteristic features and what kinds of people have an inclination to develop fantasy proneness. We will also look at how it affects a person’s life and whether it is considered a disorder or not.
What is a Fantasy Prone Personality?
Fantasy proneness is a personality trait or a disposition in which a person has a lifelong, substantial and profound involvement in fantasy or even a fantasy world or paracosm of their own creation.
Fantasy proneness is not categorized as a personality disorder. It is also NOT identified as a distinct pathology by the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders).
The DSM classifies fantasy-proneness as a disposition marker instead.
What are the characteristic features of Fantasy Prone Personality?
Fantasy may be a means to switch off the dull and gloomy or even distressing reality, and zone into a world of one’s own making, where everything happens according to your whims and desires.
Sounds perfect doesn’t it?
There are people who spend most of their waking lives in their own fantasy worlds and sometimes visit reality as a mere guest.
Research shows that around 4% of people devote half or even more than half of their waking hours to fantasy.
Compulsive fantasizers often create fantasy worlds known as ‘paracosms’ which are extremely detailed
These are people who not only lead a rich fantasy life but seem to blur the lines between fantasy and reality. In their pioneer study Wilson and Barber identified 14 characteristics of fantasy proneness:
(1) being an excellent hypnotic subject,
(2) having imaginary playmates as a child,
(3) fantasizing frequently as a child,
(4) adopting a fantasy identity,
(5) experiencing imagined sensations as real,
(6) having vivid sensory perceptions,
(7) reliving past experiences,
(8) claiming psychic powers,
(9) having out-of-body or floating experiences,
(10) receiving poems, messages, etc., from spirits, higher intelligences, and the like,
(11) being involved in “healing,”
(12) encountering apparitions,
(13) experiencing hypnagogic hallucinations (waking dreams), and
(14) seeing classical hypnagogic imagery (such as spirits or monsters from outer space).
Majority of people might have a few of these traits.
According to Wilson and Barber, having six or more of the abovementioned traits was conditional for having a fantasy prone personality.
How is Fantasy Proneness measured?
Fantasy proneness is measured by:
- The inventory of childhood memories and imaginings (ICMI)
- The creative experiences questionnaire (CEQ).
What are the developmental pathways of FPP?
Those who are fantasy prone plunge into their dream worlds and stay there for the most part of their lives. They seem to have been unable to leave behind their childhood fantasies even upon reaching adulthood and cling to them ardently.
However the important thing here is that the fantasies of these people are what helps them survive and their imaginative abilities ultimately work to retain their psychological well-being. Fantasy proneness helps these people adapt to their distressful reality and their past trauma.
When these people discover that they have unique and distinguished fantasy lives unlike normal people, they resort to secrecy and tend to keep their fantasy worlds to themselves.
The studies showed that, with a few exceptions, the fantasizer’s capacity to imagine contributed to their psychological well-being.
Most fantasizers (save a few) benefit from their fantasy proneness as it helps them maintain their psychological well being.
There is evidence that most people with fantasy proneness suffered abuse as children and what we deduce from this is that these children sought retreat in their fantasy worlds so that they could escape a harsh or unpleasant environment. This strategy seems to be a success when it comes to providing stability and happiness.There are three important causes of excessive exposure to fantasy:
- Some fantasizers recall that they were encouraged to fantasize by a parent figure or other adult for example they were shown to treat stuffed toys as if they were alive or to talk to stuffed toys.
- If a child has experienced loneliness and isolation, they might seek fantasy which serves as self-created companionship for themselves.
- Fantasy might have provided a safe haven from abuse or harsh conditions in childhood. A history of childhood abuse is relatively more common among the extreme fantasizers who are more likely to devlop psychopathology e.g. maladaptive daydreaming.
Are there any health implications attached to fantasy proneness?
In up to half (or more) of their time awake, fantasy prone persons are reported to spend their time fantasizing or daydreaming.
Out-of-body experiences, and other similar experiences that are interpreted by some fantasizers as psychic (parapsychological) or mystical are also common occurrences.
FPP are not schizophrenic and should not be confused as such because the two conditions are very different.
However, there is a high probability that malfunctioning occurs in the same regions of the brain (regions that are responsible for reality testing i.e. drawing a line between the inner and outer worlds) in both conditions.
FPP people also report increased feelings of loneliness which goes to show that they might have retreated into their fantasy world in order to cope with these feelings of loneliness or their loneliness is self-created because their fantasy life takes precedence over their real life.
According to a study that was conducted, there is a subset of fantasizers who seem to be more pathological. Approximately, 10 to 20% of fantasizers show significant signs of psychopathology but fantasy proneness does not appear to be a pre existing condition in people who have serious manifestations of psychopathology.
A very interesting thing that FPP individuals experience is that they seem to have a reduced awareness of time, identity and place while fantasizing which appears to be similar to being in a hypnotized state. Their senses come alive while fantasizing and they also hear, touch and see which means they literally experience life in their fantasy worlds.
A person’s livelihood may be seriously affected by fantasy proneness which may have a detrimental impact.
Psychological and physiological responses can manifest to maladaptive daydreams, which in turn can have a detrimental impact on work and relationships.
Maladaptive daydreaming shares many characteristics with behavioral addiction.
Maladaptive Daydreaming develops as a strategy to cope with distress but leads to uncontrolled absorption in fantasy, voluntary isolation or social withdrawal, and everyday aspects of life are neglected.
It is often associated with excessive internet use and porn addiction.
A Little Something for the FPP
If you have a fantasy prone personality then here’s a little something for you:
- You might as well want to disregard the label, ‘fantasy-prone’ especially if you are an FPP individual because can we all agree that the label makes it sound way too tragic.
- You can choose to look at the ability to fantasize as a gift instead of thinking it an unfortunate condition. FPP individuals can dissociate with more ease and plunge into their imaginative worlds and find rich troves and hidden treasure and what not there.
- Try to tap into your fantasies and come up with ways to enrich the lives of other people with those boundless fantasies of yours!
In this article we explored the fantasy prone personality, its characteristic features and what kinds of people have an inclination to develop fantasy proneness. We also looked at how it affects a person’s life and whether it is considered a disorder or not.
If you have any questions or opinions please feel free to reach out to us!
Frequently Asked Questions: Fantasy Prone Personality
What part of the brain controls fantasy?
Fantasizing , daydreaming and imagining are broad based activities which involve many regions of the brain and multiple cognitive processes.
There is no particular or known part of the brain which gets activated to cause a person to daydream or fantasize.
Why do I escape into fantasy?
Many victims of abuse tend to develop the self protective coping mechanism of fantasizing.
The paracosm or fantasy world created by the abused person acts as an anesthetic, by helping them space out of the present distressing circumstances, and escape into a pleasant world of their own making.
Is it bad to live in a fantasy world?
Living or retreating into your fantasy world is not always a bad thing because it hones your imagination and is vital for many artists. It also helps you create a life of your desire in a short span of time.
However, this condition may become problematic when it starts interfering with a person’s ability to cope with reality.
How do I stop fantasizing all the time?
Here are a few easy steps you can take right now to stop fantasizing all the time:
Try to ask yourself why you daydream
Consciously observe your patterns and
Keep yourself involved in productive tasks
Try meditating (starting with only 5 minutes a day)
Instead of daydreaming, visualize your future
Set tangible goals and take small steps to achieve them
What is it called when you can’t tell the difference between fantasy and reality?
In the brain disorder called schizophrenia the brain function is affected in such a way that schizophrenics are unable to draw a line between reality and fantasy.
How do I know if I have schizotypal personality disorder?
Having five or more of the signs given below may indicate that you have a schizotypal personality disorder:
Being a loner
Having flat emotions or inappropriate emotional reactions
Extreme social anxiety (persistent)
Interpretation of events in a way that is incorrect
Bizarre and eccentric thoughts, mannerisms and beliefs
Paranoid thoughts and constantly doubting the loyalty of others
Believing in special powers such as telepathy and holding superstitions
Unusual perceptions and illusions
Dressing in an odd or peculiar manner
Unusual or peculiar manner of speech