What to Do When You Feel Like Running Away

Why we feel like escaping and how to cope.

Man in yellow jacket opening door

Westend61 / Getty Images

Fantasizing about running away, or getting close to actually doing so, is perhaps more common than you may think. At its core, running away is a means to escape our current world—a world that isn’t serving us the way we desire.

Maybe you feel stuck or bored and are craving a renewed sense of vigor. Or perhaps you’re feeling uneasy about your relationships, unsatisfied with your job, or completely overwhelmed with your day-to-day obligations.

Whatever the case may be, in most situations the best solution isn’t to literally run. After all, the answer to our current unhappiness likely doesn’t exist in another corner of the world. Instead of getting swept up in the fantasy of escape, we must instead do some introspective digging to get to the core of the issue.

This article covers why people sometimes want to run away, why running away isn't the best solution, and how to cope with, and overcome, the feeling of wanting to escape.

Having the urge to run away is sometimes called "escapism" as it involves a desire to want to escape one's current situation.

Why We Sometimes Feel Like Running Away

At the end of the day, we’re wired to avoid discomfort or pursue pleasure. So when things get complicated or overwhelming, ditching the stress of those feelings and starting anew (even figuratively) allows us to temporarily detach ourselves from those uncomfortable feelings and realities.

“Running away often feels like the best solution to cease the pain we feel,” says Bianca L. Rodriguez, Ed.M, LMFT, founder of You Are Complete. “It can feel like the only solution, and the relief we believe we’ll feel by running away is very alluring.”

Laura Rhodes-Levin, LMFT, founder of The Missing Peace Center for Anxiety, agrees. She notes that it can be tough for your brain to separate reality from fantasy. Also, when you fantasize, you release similar endorphins and neurotransmitters that would be released if you really did live your fantasy.

Laura Rhodes-Levin, LMFT

No one does well when they feel trapped and powerless. These fantasies can give you a sense of control and choice.

— Laura Rhodes-Levin, LMFT

Why Actually Running Away Isn’t a Good Solution

For some, the idea of escaping their world is exactly that—an idea. However, some people might find themselves seriously considering dropping everything and running away to start anew. Except for in very rare scenarios, actually running away isn’t a good idea. In fact, it can be counterproductive.

Not only does running away press pause on fixing the core issue, but it can damage your relationships—including the relationship with yourself.

"Your ability to feel safe with another is a direct reflection of how safe you feel within yourself to handle difficult situations,” says Rodriguez.

She notes that relationships are the arena we grow in because our closest relationships bring up all our core issues creating an opportunity for us to heal them. It’s a beautiful thing, even if it's not the easiest.

Running away also isn’t a long-term solution in situations when our desire to flee is due to boredom or feeling overwhelmed. We must figure out why we feel the way we do and then take the time to address the issue.

Press Play for Advice On How to Feel Less Overwhelmed

Hosted by Editor-in-Chief and therapist Amy Morin, LCSW, this episode of The Verywell Mind Podcast shares a simple strategy that can help you feel less overwhelmed. Click below to listen now.

Follow Now: Apple Podcasts / Spotify / Google Podcasts / Amazon Music

In some scenarios, it might make sense to leave your situation. This includes any time you feel you’re emotionally or physically unsafe, are being exploited, or when your boundaries aren’t being respected.

How to Combat Feelings of "I Want to Run Away"

While it’s OK to let those escapism fantasies play out in our minds sometimes, we ultimately need to get to the core of the issue in order to find long-term relief. Here are some things to try if you have an urge to run away.

Get to the Bottom of Chronic Escape Fantasies

Do some self-inquiry to determine what inside you is triggering your impulsive desire to run away. Is this a pattern in relationships? Feeling overwhelmed at work? Unhappy with your current life trajectory? If the answer to these questions is "yes," Rodriguez recommends seeking a therapist who can help heal the underlying wounds.

A 2017 study published in Cognitive Therapy and Research warns us that avoiding these triggers and emotions can potentially lead to greater feelings of anxiety and emotional stress. It's important to address them so they do not spiral.

Ask for Help

It's important to remember that you are never truly alone in any situation. It takes courage to ask for help, but everyone benefits from getting help from others. This might be a close friend, partner, family member, or mental health professional.

When you try to push forward alone when feeling overwhelmed, it is difficult to properly analyze your situation and make efficient progress. Bouncing your thoughts and feelings off others can help you make sense of, and move through, your thoughts and feelings.

Take Some Personal Time

Sometimes, a temporary getaway—even if it’s just some me-time for an afternoon—might help quell our desire to escape. “If you can take some time off without putting yourself or others in jeopardy, then go for it. I am a huge believer in taking care of yourself first, or you are of help to no one,” says Rhodes-Levin.

Laura Rhodes-Levin

Figure out a way to get some breathing room so you can approach your problems with long-term solutions rather than short-term fixes that will break again shortly.

— Laura Rhodes-Levin

Sometimes alone time is as simple as spending an hour or two behind a locked door or out of the house. This "space to breath" can have profound positive impacts on your mental health.

To that end, a 2019 study found that people who spent approximately 11% of their time alone experienced fewer negative feelings in other social experiences.

Remove Some Obligations

If you’re feeling overwhelmed in your life, take some time to figure out what obligations you can remove or delegate. When we have little time to pursue our joys or indulge in unstructured free time, it can make us fantasize about escaping it all.

Try Something New

In cases where you feel like running away because you’re bored, trying something new can help you feel renewed. Create a bucket list of activities that sound fun and work your way through the list when you have time. Maybe you’ll shadow a beekeeper, go blueberry picking, hike a local trail, take a road trip, or try watercolor painting.

A Word From Verywell

Running away may give you temporary relief, but unless you have a solution before you come back, it will increase your feelings of anxiety and give you feelings of dread or doom. By pinpointing what’s causing your desire to escape, you can start to make changes in your life that impact you positively over the long term.

2 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Spinhoven P, van Hemert AM, Penninx BWJH. Experiential avoidance and bordering psychological constructs as predictors of the onset, relapse and maintenance of anxiety disorders: one or many?. Cognit Ther Res. 2017;41(6):867-880.

  2. Birditt KS, Manalel JA, Sommers H, Luong G, Fingerman KL. Better off alone: daily solitude is associated with lower negative affect in more conflictual social networks. Pruchno R, ed. The Gerontologist. 2019;59(6):1152-1161. doi:10.1093/geront/gny060

By Wendy Rose Gould
Wendy Rose Gould is a lifestyle reporter with over a decade of experience covering health and wellness topics.