My 14-year-old niece has a crush on her stepfather. She is having dreams and then is believing that they really happened. She fantasizes about him and then believes that the fantasies are real. Is this a disorder? What can I do to research why someone would believe dreams/thoughts to be reality?
Fantasies are very common and many people have fantasies they believe are real or partially real. These fantasies are enjoyable as our brain changes our moods to match our fantasies. Most people who buy a lottery ticket have an I’ll-be-rich fantasy connected with the purchase. If we dream or fantasize about something joyful, we actually feel happier. On the other side of the coin, if we dream or fantasize about rejection — we feel rejected and miserable.
The “disorder” part is not believing fantasies are real — it’s acting and behaving as though fantasies are real. Romantic crushes are very common and people often have crushes on celebrities. However, when we behave as though we are married to a celebrity, it’s called Celebrity Stalking. You can monitor her behavior and her comments about her stepfather to make sure she is not moving over the line from fantasy belief to fantasy misbehavior.
It’s also not uncommon for children to have fantasies about new adults in their life. It’s a process of integrating that individual into their personal life. The arrival of a stepmother or stepfather can create fantasies of a new and different parent — maybe someone more loving, attentive, kind, supportive, etc. These fantasies often help create the emotional bond between the child and the new parent. With your niece at age 14, fantasies with a romantic or admiration theme are not uncommon. I wouldn’t be too concerned unless her behavior changes dramatically or she begins to say or do things that are out of normal range, such as informing the family that they are going to get married. If she begins to act out her fantasies, then mental health consultation should be considered.
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