Fantasy is a set of mental images, often a wish, that generally has no basis in reality.

Fantasy has two meanings. In common discourse, a fantasy is something created by the imagination and based on a person's longing or desire. The second meaning is simply that which people imagine to be true. Cognitive behavioral therapy often challenges fantasies by asking patients to think through their worst, most catastrophic fantasy about a future event. In psychoanalysis, fantasy is regarded as a defense mechanism. For example, after being reprimanded by a supervisor, a worker may fantasize about taking over the company and firing the supervisor. Similarly, a child may fantasize about running away from home in retaliation against punishment.

Vivid fantasies are often a part of childhood that diminishes as a child grows older. In the majority of cases, fantasy is not a cause for concern. As long as a person is aware that the fantasy is not real, the creation of these mental images is considered normal. When the line between fantasy and reality becomes blurred in someone's mind, however, it is possible that the person has a mental illness. When the individual truly believes in his fantasy as reality, it has become a hallucination. In such situations, the hallucination may be a symptom of schizophrenia or another psychotic disorder. Professional evaluation by a psychologist or psychiatrist is necessary at this point.

See also Daydreaming .



Furby, Jacqueline, and Claire Hines. Fantasy. London: Routledge, 2012.

Kline, Paul. Fact and Fantasy in Freudian Theory, 2nd ed. London: Routledge, 2013.

Klinger, Eric. Daydreaming: Using Waking Fantasy and Imagery for Self-Knowledge and Creativity. Los Angeles: Tarcher, 1990.

Nusselder, André. The Surface Effect: The Screen of Fantasy in Psychoanalysis. London: Routledge, 2013.

Trivers, Robert. The Folly ofFools: The Logic ofDeceit and SelfDeception in Human Life. New York: Basic Books, 2011.


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WEBSITES “The Psychology of Fantasy.” (accessed September 18, 2015).

University of Chicago. “Fantasy.” (accessed September 18, 2015).