How to stop fantasizing

Whenever I find someone attractive or that has a vibe that I like, I start to fantasize about them. A lot. It can go from innocent made up "scenes" like going out to the movies, watching the sun set, to sexual fantasizes. I thought all of this was normal, which it is; fantasizing and imagining doing stuff with people. But I have realized it's now a problem. Fantasizing leads me to create expectations about this person. I think I know them when I don't know them AT ALL and when I finally have a chance to interact with them I act awkwardly because I know that I've been imagining them in these weird/messed up circumstances in my head. How can I stop fantasizing, or at least know how to approach fantasizing in a healthy way, and not become this awkward mess in front of others?

Don't beat yourself up for wanting affection it's normal. Treat those people as people and remember most of them probably do that all the time too.

Same here. I always think it’s a huge problem knowing that I’m living in this fantasy world and having high expectations for people.

stay in reality, it's often easy to feel swept away, it's harder to understand why. Always stay in the moment and breathe.

Fantasies are just that, fantasies. Separate the real world from the fictional world, but you can't really (and shouldn't) suppress yourself; it is unhealthy. I think people our age (I'm 28, so still young) have issues with this because we grew up with social media which paints unrealistic pictures of everybody and their lives and makes people seem more exciting and interesting than they really are.

I fantasize about girls I meet all the time, sometimes I'll see a cute girl and make eye contact with her and she'll smile at me and I'll imagine us being married and our life together lol. But, I can separate fantasy from reality sufficiently.

How I ground myself is by realizing that she/they feel awkward, anxious, scared, confused, depressed, overly-sensitive, and probably fantasize just like everybody else. What's helped me with not putting people on a pedestal, especially people I'm attracted to, (male or female, I'm straight, but better looking guys can be intimidating in a different way; because I can ascribe superiority to them based on their demeanor/mannerisms) is realizing that when I have an interaction with them they aren't judging me anywhere near as much as they are judging themselves (yes, there are bitches/douchebags, but the vast majority of people have humility and compassion; especially young people because it has become uncool to be a dick – that 80's jock/cheerleader paradigm in movies is dead, thankfully).

In other words, they are thinking exactly what you are thinking about themselves. They are beating themselves up for stuttering, or saying "you too" to the waiter who said "have a nice meal", or for their awkward interactions on the elevator in their apartment building.

How to stop fantasizing

That beautiful stranger is looking at you again; your eyes meet across a busy café and that spark jolts straight to your stomach. Your mind is right on cue, quickly imagining the two of you checking into the nearest hotel and getting down to it. But wait. you’re in a relationship already. So, when does fantasizing about someone else become unhealthy? And what—if anything—can you do about this little conundrum?

To answer those questions and more, we consulted clinical psychologist and sex therapist Dr. Christopher Ryan Jones.

Meet the Expert

Dr. Christopher Ryan Jones is a clinical psychologist and sex therapist.

Why Do We Fantasize About Other People?

When you’re in a happy, loving relationship, thinking about someone new may set alarm bells off in your mind. But before you spiral into a whirlwind of self-doubt and misplaced guilt, take a second to realize that fantasizing about people is not the catastrophic life event you may be picturing.

Having fantasies is normal! "People fantasize because it is a healthy part of the human experience," explains Dr. Jones. "While not all people have sexual fantasies, I would say the largest portion of the population does."

Whether you see a cute stranger on the bus or have a sexy thought about the barista who served you in Starbucks, there’s no reason to freak out. “This doesn’t mean that you are not happy in your relationship, or that you would be unfaithful to your partner, or that you want to have sex with someone else. Sometimes they are just nice thoughts to have,” adds Dr. Jones.

The Benefits of Fantasizing

Playing a steamy move inside your head can come with a whole wealth of advantages. Fantasizing about somebody gives your sex life a whole new dimension. Let’s take a look at some of the main benefits.

More sexual pleasure.

Thoughts are just that—thoughts. You don’t have to act on them for them to be exciting or thrilling. However, if thinking about someone else gets you revved up, that can only be a positive thing for your sex life. There’s nothing wrong with imagining that certain someone ahead of getting hot with your partner. Sexual fantasies play an important role when it comes to your sexual pleasure, according to research from the University of Granada. Put simply, letting your imagination run wild could help you get in the mood.

Understanding your desires.

While you may be fantasizing about someone else, pay attention to what else is going on. Are you getting it on in public? Are they fulfilling some desire that your partner doesn’t? Are you doing something new in the bedroom? These details could give you an insight into your deeper desires. Rather than judging these fantasies as wrong or inappropriate, consider what they are telling you about your needs. Should your mind keep wandering to that attractive coworker, for example, think about what they represent for you.

Role-play inspiration.

So, you might not want to act on your fantasy and sleep with someone else (if you do, that’s an entirely different conversation. See: open relationships). But that doesn’t mean that the fun and games have to end there. Why not use your fantasy as inspiration when role-playing with your partner? “In my professional experience, I have found that people find great fulfilment in finding ways to live out their fantasies,” explains Dr. Jones. “It has been very helpful in couples therapy, as a tool to reinvigorate their sex lives.”

Types of Fantasies

When you’re thinking about getting down to it with another person, what exactly are you up to? Research published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine identified some of the most common sexual fantasies. The findings suggested that many women fantasize about submission—i.e. being tied up—while few of those women would like their fantasy to come true. Aside from that, there are a couple of main types of sexual fantasies.

Unusual fantasies.

These types of sexual fantasies often include a taboo element. For example, you might fantasize about someone else giving you a 'golden shower,' having sex with a prostitute, or cross-dressing as part of your sexual play. Whatever your desires, it’s important to realize that daydreaming about a hot scenario is not the same as acting upon it. However, you can learn from these fantasies and safely act them out.

Typical fantasies.

The most common types of fantasies are different for men and women. The research found that women often fantasize about having sex with someone in a romantic location, while many men are drawn to the idea of two women having sex. People of all genders often fantasize about receiving oral sex. Of course, there’s a rainbow array of fantasies you could be having about someone other than your partner. Go with it.

What Does Having Fantasies Mean?

Worried that your fantasy sexual escapades have a deep, dark meaning? Relax. Thinking about someone else doesn’t have to mean that you’re ready to throw in the towel when it comes to your current relationship. Chances are, this fleeting thought is no big deal. "I don’t think they mean anything, except the person perhaps finds the idea and concept pleasurable. And this in itself is a good thing," offers Dr. Jones.

“If we are talking romantically or sexually, the truth is a lot of couples lack creativity in the bedroom and often feel that things become boring, so their sex life dwindles down,” continues Dr. Jones. “Interestingly, some of the same couples have sexual fantasies. So I give them permission and encourage them to act out those fantasies with one another and feel the sense of excitement and exploration that they did earlier in their relationship.”

How to Get Rid of Unwanted Fantasies

Fixating on a sexual fantasy that’s not serving you well can be exhausting and troubling. In these instances, you may want to banish those fantasies once and for all. Fortunately, Dr. Jones has advice on how to manage this issue.

“People who want to get rid of unwanted fantasies may benefit from seeing a therapist, especially someone who focuses on cognitive behavioral therapy,” says Dr. Jones. You can speak to your doctor or look online for the support you need. “However, I want to reiterate that thought does not equal action. There is a difference between thinking about something and actually doing something. You should not feel bad about your thoughts.”

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How to stop fantasizing

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How to stop fantasizing

How to stop fantasizing

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How to stop fantasizing

Woe Is Me! is a series in which The Swaddle team indulges your pity party with advice you’ll probably ignore.

I’m a teenager. While my peers study for big exams, I waste a lot of time fantasizing about women. The way people kiss and do other sexual activities in Western TV shows influences me so much that I can’t sleep because I’m thinking about women! Recently, I went to a religious place of worship that my family visits, but all I was doing was thinking about women! This is giving me a lot of anxiety and zero concentration! Help!

Thirteen Going on PG-17

RD: Congratulations on your sexual awakening! Look, there’s nothing wrong with fantasizing about women, if you’re so inclined. Sexual fantasies are a healthy way to keep our sexual natures excited and functional, and since you’re a teenager, I’d say it’s even healthier, since you’re just starting out and probably haven’t had a chance to try any of those fantasies out yet. The more you try to suppress these, or think they aren’t normal, or feel shame for them, the more time you’ll find yourself spending doing exactly that. I’d say try to find a healthy balance between the rest of your life, and your fantasy time. You’re growing up, so sooner or later you’ll meet someone who shares the same fantasies as you (and when you do, make sure you’re respectful of their space and consent, while also being cognizant of your own). Don’t sweat it. The more you normalize this experience for yourself, the less you’ll feel like it’s taking over your life.

LG: Dear Distracted: It’s 100% okay to sexually fantasize about naked women! Or naked men! Seriously! It’s super fun. And I have news for you — these sexy thoughts would have happened with or without Western TV shows. Thinking about sex A LOT (and often in very inappropriate settings) is a big part of being a teenager, no matter where you’re from or what you’re watching. Your peers are definitely having these thoughts, too — probably while pretending to study for exams. So first, accept that you’re horny — embrace it even. My guess is some of what is driving the constant, unstoppable fantasizing is that the thoughts feel taboo or shameful — but the more you try to push the sex thoughts away, or deny them, or panic over them, the more they’ll crop up in your mind. So start by getting comfortable with them. They’re just thoughts, which are not the same as intents or actions. And no one can read the thoughts in your mind! (They can, however, read your glazed stare at their boobs and your little trail of drool, so don’t lose track of what your face does while you have these thoughts.)

The point is, you shouldn’t feel bad about your fantasies. That said, if these thoughts are such a distraction you can’t study or do other normal, daily activities, you do need to rein in your mind a bit. When you catch yourself slipping off into a daydream about slipping off someone’s clothes, maybe set a timer. Allow yourself a set period of time to fantasize, before concentrating on the task at hand. Giving yourself a break — and some time to enjoy your sexy thoughts (if you’re not masturbating, please try it) — might make it easier to focus on the more important things when you need to.

KB: This is the most wholesome and delightful woe we’ve ever received, without a doubt. You are a teenager — it is practically your job in life to lust and fantasize and think about people you’re attracted to. There’s nothing bad or shameful about it. In fact, this is likely the only time in your life when you’ll have the time and freedom to expend so much energy on this, so enjoy! And don’t let societal taboos make you feel guilty or anxious about it. This could not be more human, ubiquitous, and wonderful.

AS: Teenage years can be rough. There’s way too much changing about your body and mind, and the fluctuating hormones don’t make it any easier. But here’s a piece of good news to ease your anxiety — all these thoughts that you’re having are NORMAL! Trust me, everyone goes through this, and no matter how studious your peers may seem, they’re probably thinking about the same things. The more you try to repress these very natural feelings, the more they will disrupt other parts of your life. As for trips to the temple — I wouldn’t feel so guilty about it, because many religious cultures have historically actually been very open about and supportive of sexual pleasure.

Remember that you are not alone in being curious about sex, and I think there are healthy ways that you can learn more about it. To start with, don’t be ashamed of your thoughts. Instead, maybe try confiding in a trusted adult? I know some grownups aren’t comfortable with (or good at) talking to teens/kids about sex, but you could try reaching out to an older sibling, or an aunt or uncle, who may be more sympathetic. There will be a time when you feel ready to experiment with these questions practically in real life, and when that happens, things will sort themselves out.

RP: First, give yourself a break. Thinking about sex (a lot!) is completely normal. Especially as a teenager your body and emotional makeup are rapidly changing and WILL make you curious about sex. I’m sure even those peers you think are studying all the time are also thinking about sex more than they tell you. It sounds like what you want to do is make sure it’s not taking over the rest of your life. The only way to do that is to allow yourself time and space to be curious and explore what you want to know about sex. If you do that and don’t treat it as something you shouldn’t be thinking about, then it won’t crop up in your head at every wrong moment. It’s like trying to think about nothing when you meditate– really difficult to tell yourself what not to think about. Proactively giving your mind time to explore all your musings in a healthy and positive way will help you concentrate in the moment. Enjoy all the newness of being a teenager!