“Reality Shifting on TikTok: A Trend with Mental Health Concerns”

Reality shifting has taken TikTok by storm, with users claiming they can transport themselves to alternate worlds. While many believe it to be harmless, experts warn that it could exacerbate mental health conditions in some individuals. In extreme cases, shifters are even encouraged to die in order to permanently change realities. In this article, we’ll explore the rising popularity of reality shifting, the potential risks involved, and the experiences of former shifters.

Shifters Seek Escapism in an Increasingly Stressful World

For some individuals, reality shifting offers an enticing means of escape. During the COVID-19 lockdown in 2020, 17-year-old Anya Woods found solace in shifting, as it provided her with “a sense of excitement and opportunities.” Similarly, Lupe Ojeda, also 17, turned to shifting to cope with her dissatisfaction with life. According to psychologist Saul Rosenthal, shifting can be viewed as a response to the stresses induced by social isolation and the pressures of the pandemic. It serves as a way for individuals to regain a sense of control in a world that feels increasingly dangerous.

Former shifter Sarah, an 18-year-old from the UK, shared her personal experience with shifting. She was battling depression and suicidal thoughts when she discovered shifting. Sarah found it to be the perfect form of escapism, as she believed she could create a perfect reality where she could live. However, for her and many others, the allure of shifting can have unintended consequences on mental health.

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Shifting as an Alternative to Mindfulness and Meditation

Reality shifting, in many ways, offers a similar experience to mindfulness and meditation. Practices aimed at transcending reality have existed for centuries, with techniques such as mindfulness, meditation, hypnosis, and visualization. Pamela Rutledge, director of the Media Psychology Research Center, notes that shifting can be seen as a form of meditation, even if it involves focusing on a fictional universe. Shifting involves creating a dream or desired reality, known as “DRs” on TikTok, where individuals script their lives within these alternate worlds.

Visualizing oneself in a different reality can be a healthy coping strategy, similar to how therapists help clients create their own safe spaces for regulation during difficult emotional experiences. Adolescent therapist Mallory Grimste emphasizes the positive effects of imagining a different reality, stating that it can be a valuable coping mechanism for many individuals.

The Dark Side of Shifting: When Escapism Becomes an Obsession

Though shifting itself is not inherently unhealthy, it can become problematic when individuals use it as a way to escape their present lives. Former shifters Anya Woods, Lupe Ojeda, and Sarah all recognized that shifting had turned into an obsession that detached them from reality. Woods admitted to losing interest in day-to-day life because her thoughts were consumed by her dream reality. Ojeda, who already coped with depression, anxiety, and OCD, described shifting as making her “delusional.” In her dream reality, she believed she would find her soulmate, further motivating her desire to shift.

Clinical psychologist Joshua Klapow advises caution when individuals rely on shifting excessively to escape their problems. He points out that, like any behavior, excessive shifting can contribute to an unbalanced and unhealthy life, especially for those at risk of dissociative conditions like psychosis.

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The Alarming Practice of “Respawning”

Respawning, the idea of permanently shifting to a dream reality, has gained attention within the shifting community. Those who embrace respawning generally believe it can be achieved through physical death or leaving a “clone” behind while their soul shifts. Although a small fringe community endorses this practice, it is crucial to note the potential dangers it poses. Various YouTube videos and posts on platforms like Amino discuss subliminal techniques to induce a “natural” death and facilitate respawning. While there is no evidence that watching such videos causes physical harm, the fact that individuals are exploring these ideas should raise concerns and prompt psychological support.

Psychologist Phillip Reid warns that younger people, especially those lacking a strong sense of self, may disconnect from reality while assuming multiple identities. Losing touch with reality can potentially act as a predictor of psychosis. It is essential to prioritize the well-being and safety of individuals who engage in these practices and offer them appropriate support.

In response to the concerns raised, TikTok has stated that their top priority is the safety and well-being of the community. They do not permit content that promotes or glorifies activities related to suicide, self-harm, or dangerous practices leading to severe injury or death.

Let’s Listen, Understand, and Help Each Other

The growing trend of reality shifting on TikTok may provide temporary escapism for some individuals, but it comes with potential risks for mental health. As with any coping mechanism, moderation is key, and excessive reliance on shifting can have adverse effects on one’s well-being. It is crucial to listen to the experiences of former shifters and the concerns voiced by experts.

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By fostering an open dialogue and providing psychological support, we can better understand the motivations behind these practices and work towards healthier alternatives for individuals seeking solace in an increasingly stressful world.

Note: This article is not intended to provide professional mental health advice. If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health issues, please seek appropriate professional help.

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