Living with Overactive Imagination: the highs, the lows, and the completely off-the-wall

Where better to unleash your Overactive Imagination than at Masaya Volcano, Nicaragua?

I was born with an interesting condition known as Overactive Imagination. Even as I type the title of this blog post, I’m wandering off into the mystery mistiness of my imagination… Where did the idiom “off-the-wall” come from? And what kind of wall are we talking here? The bedroom wall? A prison wall? The Great Wall of China? And where is off-the-wall located exactly? Floating in the centre of the room? Hovering in the sky? Tumbling in outer space? Thankfully, intervened and explained the origin of the expression: “In certain sports such as handball and racketball, a player hits a ball against the wall. When it comes off the wall, one has no idea where it is going. Therefore, this expression implied unpredictability.” Sometimes, Google is the only reliable medicine for this disorder. If I know I’m about to drift off, inventing my own weird and wonderful meanings for things, I whip open the laptop and hit that Search button.

My Overactive Imagination (or OI, not to be confused with Osteogenesis Imperfecta- a genetic bone disorder commonly referred to as brittle bone disease) was first diagnosed as a young child. I used to pretend to my little brother that our toys could talk. Each had his/her own personality, distinct voice, and best friend. After a number of years, when my brother was becoming slightly more street savvy, he asked me, “Why does your mouth move whenever the toys talk?” I had to think on my feet. I answered: “Their mouths are sewn shut so they have to speak telepathically through me. Duh!” That worked for about another year.

OI is perfect for when you’re interacting with children. When I was 11, a beautiful little sister arrived into our home. She thought I was magic. Seriously! If she got a splinter in her finger, I’d get her to close her eyes and I’d pretend that the needle I used to fish out the splinter was a fairy wand. I was the only one she let near her on those occasions.

OI is also an excellent tool for making you feel better about bad situations. More recently, I lost some of my eyelashes (read here for more details) and wondered if they were going to grow back at all. But, instead of feeling depressed and panicky, I developed a hypothesis. If we were to follow Darwin’s theory of evolution, that we were once fish and have evolved over the years until we’ve turned into good ol’ Homo sapiens, maybe it’s time for us to adapt further for life in the 21st century, and maybe, just maybe, we no longer need eyelashes…

However, like with any disorder, OI has many negative symptoms too, including sleeplessness, paranoia, and insanity. This condition has robbed me of many hours of sleep. I could be so caught up in my fantasies that I don’t even realise that I’ve been lying in bed, wide awake, for the last two and a half hours!

On that note, this past week, I haven’t been nodding off until three/four/even five in the morning. Although there is a perfectly legitimate reason for this (I’ve been busy blogging, drinking cups of tea, and watching episode after episode of Brothers & Sisters), I started to speculate on a more zany reason for my insomnia. According to recent news reports, I am no longer a Gemini. I’ve been this star-sign all my life but now, out of the blue, I’m told I’m a Taurus! This is because the Earth has “wobbled out of alignment with the moon” (you can read the full Daily Mail article here). If the world is changing so radically, maybe that’s why I’ve been unable to sleep, because, going back to Darwin’s theory, Homo sapiens have mutated once again and no longer require at least seven hours’ sleep a night. Or maybe our circadian rhythms are running on different cycles. The whole of society will then need to alter the times we sleep, work, eat, and wind down. Maybe we should be going to bed just before dawn and getting up for work at midday. In that case, the TV watershed should start no earlier than midnight. And midnight feasts will be held as the sun rises…

Unfortunately, OI can also get you into trouble. When I was 10 years old, I convinced my friend and our five-year-old brothers that heaven perched at the top of one of the hills in Glending Woods. When it wasn’t exactly paradisiacal at the top of that hill, we went from hill to hill in search of my promised land. Hours later, we were totally lost, and my poor eight-month-pregnant mother was desperately searching for us. I managed to convince a group of gun- and knife-wielding men (don’t worry, they were hunting) to drive us to Blessington police station where we were reunited with my frantic mother.

OI also fuels paranoia and negative thinking. If a group of teenagers snigger as you strut by, it’s easy to imagine that they’re mocking your tea-cosy hat or the way you walk. If a loved one is late home, you picture them perishing in freak accidents involving lightning, falling elevators, and other spooky scenarios that even the creators of Lost would deem unbelievable.

On the up side, OI has taken me on countless surprising journeys, far removed from the mundane trappings of every day life. I’ve spent many a boring bus trip, mentally penning romantic stories involving ruggedly handsome strangers, which culminate in declarations of love/lust (depending on my mood) by Mr Sexy (you’d think, with my condition, I’d come up with a more imaginative name), as we lock eyes over a cappuccino/stroll hand-in-hand on moonlit beaches/get jiggy with it.

OI has helped fill me with optimism about upcoming exams and interviews. Before my driving test, I’d already imagined myself whooping with delight as I received the news of my success. Lately, I’ve been imagining the moment the novel I haven’t started writing yet goes into print. I can clearly envisage it beaming out of an Eason’s shop window. I can even see the font used to brandish my name. There are entire self-help books on the subject of the power of visualisation but I’ve already “got it” with my OI.

Living with OI is like residing in a roller coaster car, with constant ups, downs, and moments so wild you’ll have to close your eyes to bear them. Here’s how to make the most of your condition:

1) Drugs are bad, mkay?!

You’re already wired to the moon so you don’t need cans of Red Bull or shots of coffee to get you there. If I were you, I would also avoid alcohol, marijuana, and other hallucinogens.

2) Sleep

There’s no safer place to let your OI run wild than in your dreams. Also, the less tired you are, the better you’ll be able to distinguish between reality and the OI-inspired delusions.

3) Don’t dwell on conspiracy theories

If you’re prone to seizures of OI, stay away from all those conspiracy theories circulating on the net. On that vein, have you seen what happened to Mel Gibson in Conspiracy Theory? He had his eyelids taped open by a very scary Patrick Stewart. The thought of that alone should put a screeching halt to your crazy musings.

4) Human contact

OI thrives in lonely conditions. So, get out in the real world and connect with those afore-mentioned Homo sapiens. Chatting to real, live people will get you out of your head for a while and you’ll soon feel normal again.

5) Rationalise

As a frightened child, your parents did the rationalising for you. I don’t see any alligators under your bed, love. And the boogeyman definitely isn’t in your wardrobe. Now that you’re an adult, I’m afraid you’re going to have to do it yourself. But don’t worry if you can’t make sense of it on your own, that’s what friends are for. And if you’re still freaking out about glimpsing thieves and aliens in every dark corner of your house, it might be time to consult a professional.

6) Make the most of it

Some people would sell off their spleens for a great imagination. So, hold on to it, polish it, and learn to control it. Think of it as a superpower. Once you master it, you’ll rule the world. You could come up with an original idea for the next best-selling Xbox game or create a wacky blog or start a comic (sci-fi nerds lap that shit up). You could even become the next J. K. Rowling, writing your own series of fantasy children’s books, transforming them into blockbuster movies starring Saoirse Ronan and Jaden Smith, acquiring your very own theme park, being introduced to Ryan Gosling, marrying him… Oops, there I go again…

If you don’t want to wind up like this, follow my tips…

74 responses to “Living with Overactive Imagination: the highs, the lows, and the completely off-the-wall

  1. Love your take on OI, I knew people we were not crazy. You have a great knack in writing.

  2. Ah Mister Sexy! Love it!

  3. This was really interesting, i think i may have this because i always get racing thought and i still find it really easy to make up things….which i do quite frequently. Also i can never get to sleep for making up scenarios in my head and have always looked forward to going to bed so i could do so. When i start to revise i find myself in the same spot an hour later not having done any revision im quite happy to stare at the clouds and let my mind wonder… thanks for sharing this 🙂

  4. I am so glad you posted this. At the recent moments when I was feeling like a crazy squirrel I stumbled upon this blog. Everyone should always share their uniqueness with the world!

  5. I think i may have this. My
    Imagination is always running wild and i also come up with the craziest scenarios in my head. Helps me when writing creatively, but i i need a bit of restraint not to write down what goes on in my brain in formal essays. Anyway to control my imagination when going through times like that?

  6. Pingback: Strangers in the Night | betterthansurviving

  7. Thank you so much for this blog. For years I’ve struggled with my overactive imagination and daydreams that get out of control. I always thought I was completely crazy and like I was the only one in the world.

  8. Chelsey Banning

    See I feel that I have this but I tend to oversleep instead of having insomnia. I want to stay in bed all day and imagine things. Like I will take movies, books, famous people, and characters I like and add on to the story or add made up characters or build my own story from a character. However, while I’m doing this I tend to fall asleep which leads to me sleeping like 12 hrs or more. I kind of use this as an escape from reality and boredom because lets face it REALITY SUCKS! But learning about this kind of explains things and makes me feel that I have a problem:( but I do not want to give up my daydreaming.

  9. I have a very active imagination. Sometimes nice because if I don’t like something or I’m feeling down I can just turn my music on and enter my own little world. Or when I’m in the car I can day dream about something and really not see or hear anything that goes on around me. Or even when walking in the grocery store I will start day dreaming, but I must know whats going on because I don’t bump into anyone or run into any walls. I get so into my day dreaming, like I’m watching amazing movie, that I will start giggling or smiling or hell I could even cry. (not so good when around people -_-) Also if someone is telling a story or describing something I can picture it very well, which is not always good if it’s a scary story. If they were to say “there was a black shadowy figure standing at my door, my body felt like it was in a freezer, I couldn’t move..” Or something like that. I could clearly see everything happening so well that I would get scared myself.

    • There are definitely advantages and disadvantages to having a very active imagination. We can be extremely creative and empathise with how people are feeling. However, we can also take on the negativity and internalise it. The trick is to figure out what’s really ours and detach from the negative stuff.

  10. Why is the “doctor” terms for OI diginoistic term

  11. Thank you so much!!! for so long I have been living trapped in imagination wondering if I was the only one who thought this way. So I just googled “overactive imagination” to see if anything would come up, and I’m so happy I found this article! Plus maybe this overactive imagination could help me because I would like to be a novelist someday!

  12. I feel like having an active imagination is a blessing rather than a curse. Yes, it needs to be honed, but once you’re there you’ve got the best gift the universe could provide you. I’m proud of what I can create. 🙂

  13. Reallt interesting i am only 15 and feel like i need to hide from the world because of all the crazy things i think of when i was young i used to do something simalar to your dolls i had these beenie babies and i used to go and watch a movie run to the living room and basically replay the movie but with a little extra parts added… and now that my parents had to throw them all out cause i was getting “older” i really miss entering that world of complete imagination that i owned.

    • How about you write stuff down? That way, you’re putting your imagination to some constructive creative use 🙂

    • Lol. I played with toys all the way until age 13. I had to get rid of them because no one else at my school still plays with toys. As an alternative, I draw like crazy and tend to create my own characters to daydream about. I imagine scenarios and endlessly predict the future, even though it might not happen.

  14. Thanks for writing this, kinda nice to know that more ppl have this 😉 My dad told me when I was a kid that I had an over active imagination, he does also and so does my brother

    I think literally all the time, my mind is constantly preoccupied with random thoughts and this often takes me outta the moment. Somebody says penguin, ill think of ice, then Antarctica, then expeditions, science, Stephen Hawkins, documentaries, movies, batman! etc etc!

    Unfortunately not thinking like this makes me more confident because I can devote all of my thought on what’s in front of me. Mostly with an over active imagination I’ll give people some of my brain power, the rest will be off somewhere chasing rabbits :/ Maybe other people find it difficult to simply imagine things at the same pace that we do, and maybe this is what makes people smart (but shy).. Who knows?

    For me this is definately overall a perk. It does sometimes make me over-analyse, but as I get older it becomes easier to turn off any branching, negative thoughts. With a bit of practice and meditation I only escape the moment when I want to (just before I go to sleep).

    Ps i totally did the lip-sync figurine thing when I was a kid 🙂 

  15. My oi is a gift and a curse, my fantasies are so much more alive than this world, I want to get back to the real world, but compared to my minds eye of what the world should be, I like my scenarios far more:)

  16. Hello. Please I really could do with some advice, if you have the time for it. What is OI exactly? In the sense, is it an ability to control one’s mind no matter how hard you try? I googled ‘hyperactive imagination’ and I found this. There isn’t even a wiki entry. Is it really a thing? Can it be controlled? Do let me know. Would be a great help. Also, any source with information on this will also do.
    Thank you.

  17. *inability

  18. Hello Tushar, unfortunately I can’t help you as this article was written part seriously and part for comic effect. Everything I’ve written about is true but I don’t believe I have OI and I am certainly not an expert on it (if it’s even a “real” condition).
    However, it is real for you and for many people who’ve read this article.
    I would suggest speaking to someone you trust or to a professional in order to get help or tips in order to calm your mind and feel at peace.
    Wishing you the best of luck.

  19. i do have a serious problems with my family and i always imagine them quite oppositely means as the way i want[good way] and sometimes think it really happened and feel so good that i act like nothing happened[people told].do i suffer from OI[it is really good though] or any other psychological problem?

    • This probably merits a similar response to Tushar’s questions so see the comment above… Good luck!

    • Sorry for the long read. I believe that scientists have come forward with an official name for OI: Fantasy prone personality. People with this disposition are called ‘fantasizers’, and if you look it up on Wikipedia you find this:

      Fantasy prone personality (FPP) is a disposition or personality trait in which a person experiences a lifelong extensive and deep involvement in fantasy. This disposition is an attempt, at least in part, to better describe the popular term “over-active imagination”, or “living in a dream world”. An individual with this trait (termed a fantasizer) may have difficulty differentiating between fantasy and reality and may experience hallucinations, as well as self-suggested psychosomatic symptoms. Three closely related psychological constructs are daydreaming, absorption and eidetic memory.

      I believe I had this up until a couple of years ago, and I think there are still remnants of it, as I can play music to myself in my head (not always in control of which song though), and whenever I sleep very little for an extended duration (less than 5 hours a night more than 2 weeks), I start to lose grip with reality just a little bit. It’s not that reality changes, but that dreams start to seem more like reality, and it’s almost as though my mind is playing out the best and worst case scenarios for things which are happening the next couple of days, and then those events actually occur. The problem is that it is hard to determine which of the three really happened, and I would have to go and confirm it by checking a score or asking a friend what happened. Perhaps it is a safety mechanism, my brain’s way of reassuring me that I already know the worst that could happen, so things could only go up from there.

      My apologies again for the long read. This was a very though-provoking article indeed, even if it was half-jest.

      • The dilemma is worsened by the occasional bout of depersonalization – or the anomaly of watching or observing oneself doing something without actually being in control of one’s actions.

        Aside from that though, it can be a gift sometimes, and other times a curse, so the only challenge is figuring out how to harness it for good, and have less of the negative side effects.

      • Thanks for that, William. Very interesting!

  20. thank u for ur reply.

  21. nice it really helps a lot.. but i have this question of mine.. i really cant sleep well at night because i imagine to much and i cant stop it, do i need a yoga or something that can give me a piece of mind.. 🙂

    • I’m glad it helps 🙂
      Yes, there are many tools that help with sleep – deep breathing techniques, exercise (including yoga), meditation, energetic medicine like acupuncture and/or homeopathy. Chamomile tea is relaxing too. And obviously avoiding caffeine and other stimulants, exercise, TV late at night…

      • I’ve had an overactive imagination for as long as I can remember but recently it has gotten a bit out of control. I can’t watch any horror movies or I stay up for weeks in fear that whatever scary thing was in the movie is in my house waiting to get me. Even movies that I saw as a child now scare me.
        My house is old and makes all kinds of noises and I understand that but I’m so paranoid that something is in my attic. I also just had a daughter and I watch her through a video monitor at nights and I just feel like something is watching and waiting to get her too.
        I have a fear of psychologists because I feel like they are just trying to control your mind to conform to society.
        Am I psychotic or is my imagination just out there?

  22. You may be exhausted and when you’re very tired, it’s much easier for your thoughts to spiral out of control. Rest as much as you can. Try a natural or homeopathic remedy to settle you. Or talk to someone close to you who you trust.
    I hope that helps.

    • Sounds like you are somewhat paranoid, perhaps u suffer from an anxiety problem? U could just realize there is nothing to be scared of,or even better, buy a gun. Then youll never be scared about that little fuck from the omen or the ring comin at you, cuz youve got 9 hollow point jacketed 10mm rounds thatll impact at close range with enough kinetic energy to put a grapefruit sized hole in anyone or anything you feel shouldnt currently be alive!

  23. You are definitely not alone 🙂 I have dealt with this my whole life and have discovered it to be an amazing gift/curse that has shaped me into an extremely apathetic person. I would never give it up.. Thank you for writing this page.

  24. Oh my goodness! this is amazing, i was thinking “how long was she following me for?(lol probably the paranoia)” all thru this article. This is basically my life story. Before now i thought i was just weird, but i channeled my OI thru writing and thinking. My OI is the reason i found this article to begin with. Sometimes words or terms just pop in my head and tonight the term was Overactive Imagination so google lead me here. thanks for the advice. Also, i have a question, if you wouldnt mind, do you think it’s possible for a person’s OI to create a multi-personality disorder?

    • I’m not sure about multiple personality disorder, but having multiple ‘personality’ entities or characters effectively separate from yourself is something quite a few people have. Whether you act as those characters do and thus have the symptoms of multiple personality disorder, or have psychological trauma which causes it, is another matter entirely. Hope this helps. Sorry if it doesn’t.

      P.S. I found this exactly the way you did, although I tend to channel mine through learning new things (google and wikipedia), as I’m not that good a writer.

    • Landon, dude are you like my Doppleganger or something? XD You have my name, my symptoms, my abilities, my mentality (because I thought I was weird my whole life as well) and most likely my talents to see way further than others. Email me sometime…

  25. Thanks for the comment, Landon, and for your reply, William. 🙂

  26. Hello.. Thank god.. At least now I know I’m not COMPLETELY insane.. I get so sleepless and have the most craziest, vivid dreams that I would never even imagine… I even dream while I’m half I asleep, or even wide awake.. I get exhausted and I even mouth the words I am saying in the dream I’m having at half- wake.. just feel trapped in my own world of insanity. I think the worst things and am still afraid of the dark at 14 years old… I feel trapped in my own world/mind… I need help.. 😦 I can’t stand the sleepless, insane filled nights and just being trapped and going crazy out of my mind… I’m mad as a hatter..

  27. Is this my imagination taking over? Or am I just insane???

  28. Is it my over active imagination or something else?

  29. Hi Ariana,
    This article, although partly serious, was written with a sense of humour too so I don’t feel qualified to give you the answers that you may need. Have you spoken to anybody about how you’re feeling? I think that would be a good idea.

  30. Wow, well it seems I was led here for a reason. I guess I’ll answer as many questions as possible. It isn’t called an OI or Overactive Imagination and most certainly not an FPP. It’s called an Imaginational Overexcitability. Discovered by Dr. Dabrowski who was a Polish Psychiatrist, and grew up in war and was a victim of World War 2. There are 5 Overexcitabilities. There is Psychomotor, Sensual, Intellectual, Imaginational, and Emotional Overexcitabilities. That all falls under the works of Dabrowski’s Theory of Positive Disintegration. And it is generalized as Highly Gifted Individuals. And not all of them do well in school. It is pretty tough to explain and unfortunately I don’t have that time so I would encourage you all to look into it. But highlights, Average people can only tune into Local possibilities while Imaginational OE’s can tune all over the Universe. We’re already expected not to have many friends, because the rich images we can see in our heads break down in others minds and they cannot grasp your meaning. And you have infinite play of the imagination. So basically you have a 24/7 T.V show in your mind that you can control. But pretty soon it catches momentum, and develops a mind of its own. Probably how the author of this post’s Toys developed their own personalities. This happened to me all childhood. And I still pace back and forth for hours to this day inside of my mind. Mainly to brainstorm new entrepreneurial ideas as well as movie production, novels, animation and video game ideas. So there is nothing wrong with you! It is normal for others to not understand you! You are gifted and you can tune all throughout the Universe! Research more on Dr. Dabrowski’s Overexcitabilities and it will answer all questions that you have. Anyways I hope I helped a lot! I’ve been willing to reach out to so many others with my gift. Exactly like you all, my mind goes from Me being an Airbender to my friend arriving with The Mighty Kraken and a Pitchfork engaging in battle with Kratos and The First Blade from Supernatural because he lost the Blade of Olympus throwing it at Athena and missing, and it didn’t come back. Anyways, gotta go. I hope I helped my fellow people out! Email me sometime alright?

  31. with your OI do you ever have nightmares? i experience everything you’ve mentioned above but also suffer from horrendous nightmares, more so when im stressed. it could be about anything, even things i dont necessarily have a fear of but my mind will turn it into a fear.

  32. When I was a child, I seriously thought there was something wrong with me and that I had some sort of condition but as I got older I realised I didn’t have a condition, I just had an overactive imagination. This blog really helped me, thanks

  33. Hi Nikki, sorry for the delay.
    And you’re very welcome, Benita 🙂
    I’m not an expert on OI. I have the odd nightmare. I think our dreams are a way for us to process what’s going on in our lives.

  34. Your star sign actually doesn’t change, you are still a Gemini because that is the start sign you were born under.

    I did appeciate your post, it was very eye opening

  35. Pingback: Living With An Overactive Imagination | The Violet Life

  36. I was just now searching for what you just described. I’ve always thought I was kinda (off) because I always talk about the craziest things. I always see myself in these amazing places doing the unimaginable. I just had an episode and I just got done crying my eyes out and whenever this happens I really feel the need of people. I always zone out like this and when I come back to reality I am sometimes either laughing my ass off or have a lone tear streaking down my face. Thank you so much for letting me know that I am not the only one that thinks of and I laying side by side watching the stars

  37. YES. I HAVE THE BEST MIND OF MY GENERATION. So, why is this? I feel like I have a “super mind” that has wisdom and higher intelligence that tells me from experience and intuition that my super thinking is further entrenched. I am brilliant in my own way. I use my ”super mind” to discipline my scalawag mind so that I can get things done and think in a precise manner. What’s really great is that I get relaxed at the same time. This gives me energy and makes me feel better about life in general. The more I practice it, the stronger I get at it. Every morning I wake up full of gratitude and optimism. My body is overwhelmingly healthy. My mind is brilliant, and my soul is tranquil. My mind works like lightning, one brilliant flash and it’s gone’s —-I love to light up my brain along with my overactive imagination. .

  38. What if even if u close ur eyes u see all kinds of evil stuff and no matter what it won’t go away

  39. I imagine stuff all the time! When I’m at work with my head phones in I can be in my own little world but still work too. I imagine scenes in my head like someone I know dying or two guys fighting over me. Just all this crazy stuff. Sometimes I wonder if I’m just delusional and crazy -__- I imagine things that will never actually happen. Like a dramatic movie in my head, like and ex wanting me back, or getting in a fight. I’m pretty sure I’m crazy…

  40. This is awesome, I think you’re my life my lost kindred spirit. Glad I’m not alone in this awesome superpower!

  41. So I’m working on a story that features a main character with a wild imagination in adulthood and I was hoping there were people with that same trait who could provide insight into what that life is like. It sounds even cooler than I imagined it to be! This post was awesome, tank you so much for writing it!

  42. Loved this blog post, you have an amazing way with word, very enojyable, if you do write a book im there!!!!!

  43. your post really inspired me. Now I know how to use OI in positive way. Thanks for this inspiring post.

  44. Pingback: Opponent – Sarah Dougher

  45. Hadley Silvester

    Your article on over imagination was fun and for me was a satire on the bipolar condition as well as asking does imagination assist healing.From the variety of replies I would say yes it does.For me imagination is a gift we can give each other both a stage and a mirror.In a sense in a healing relationship another’s imagination can be an absolute gift.

  46. This post made me feel sane. Thank you

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