Indulging in fantasies—the imaginary, daydream-like scenarios that we play out in our heads—may seem like a waste of time, but the truth is that they are far from frivolous. Most fantasies, whether conscious or unconscious, serve a specific purpose: They can be entertaining, distracting, frightening, or, in the case of sexual fantasies, arousing. Fantasizing about our specific goals can foster creativity, help us better understand our wants and needs, and even enable us to plan for the future.
In certain mental health disorders, such as delusional disorder and schizophrenia, fantasies can be mistaken for reality, or they can become too rigid or cause an individual significant distress, as in the case of paraphilias. While those unhealthy fantasies can (and often do) cause real problems for individuals who are unable to differentiate fact from fiction, for the vast majority of people, fantasies are harmless, providing us a beneficial escape from the here and now.