Indulging in fantasies—the imaginary, daydream-like scenarios that individuals play out in their 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 specific goals can foster creativity, help someone better understand their wants and needs, and even enable them 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 a beneficial escape from the here and now.