Great Escape

Are Your Escapist Habits Wrecking Your Life?

Use these questions to conduct an honest assessment

Lesley Alderman, LCSW
Published in
5 min readAug 20, 2018
Photo by Ludde Lorentz on Unsplash

We all need to check out from time to time: to recharge, refresh, reset. That’s why we take vacations, read novels, meditate, and watch Netflix.

Sigmund Freud believed that it was part of the human condition to desire escape. “[Humans] cannot subsist on the scanty satisfaction they can extort from reality,” he wrote.

Escape, in and of itself, is neither good nor bad, though the concept has a lot of positive and negative connotations. For a summer superhero movie, “escapist” is a thumbs-up. For habitual smartphone use, it’s a problem.

With so many ways to check out these days, it’s worth taking some time to think about your escapist habits, because why you choose to escape, and how you do it, can have an impact on your mental health, shoring you up, or tearing you down.

Why We Check Out

It seems self-evident. We choose to escape to get away from something that bothers us, whether it’s the workaday grind, the fractious political climate, rebellious kids, or our own anxious minds. Daily life can be intense and demanding, and getting away can help us decompress and gain perspective. Just the prospect of a vacation can boost your happiness, according to a 2010 study. The idea of an escape, the study found, can often be more gratifying than the escape itself.

Daily life can also be, well, boring in its routine. It is from this monotony that we often desire an out. “We are less bored than our ancestors were, but we are more afraid of [boredom],” wrote Bertrand Russell in his 1930s tome, The Conquest of Happiness. Nearly a century later, our disdain for boredom has only grown more intense. While a little tedium can be a good thing, spurring us to invent, create, and make positive changes, chronic boredom has been linked to many unhealthy escape routes, including alcohol, drugs, and high-risk activities.

It’s not just the external world we want to disengage from. It can also be our own internal state of affairs. Chattering thoughts, negative feelings, and the need to keep up appearances can be exhausting. As our lives have evolved to…



Lesley Alderman, LCSW