Disneyland – the happiest place on Earth – opened on July 17th, 1955, as a place where guests of all ages could share happy times with their families and loved ones.
If you have ever been, you probably know the following statement: “To all who come to this happy place…Welcome.”
Town Square on Main Street has a dedication plaque at the flagpole that reads, “Disneyland is dedicated to the ideals, the dreams, and the hard facts that have created America… with the hope that it will be a source of joy and inspiration to all the world.”
Disneyland was created for all of us to “relive fond memories of the past and for youth to savor the challenge and promise of the future.”
Today, Disneyland is known as a theme park with multiple attractions for people of all ages to enjoy. There are calm, entertaining rides for children and adults alike, as well as thrill rides for those who are more daring in their entertainment.
Disneyland was designed as a place that would never be complete. It is ever-changing, with old attractions leaving and new ones being built. Disneyland changes with the times, always focused on providing world-class entertainment to everyone.
Going to Disneyland for the first time is a life-fulling event for many people. However, it does not always meet expectations, especially when those expectations are too high. There is much to consider to ensure that emotions are kept in check and that the stressful parts of a vacation are kept at bay.
Can Attending Disneyland Affect Mental Health?
Any event or experience you look forward to has the potential to fall short of your expectations. The same can be said for a visit to Disneyland or Walt Disney World, as feelings of anticipation, excitement, and happiness run high. However, many triggering issues could occur that can increase anxiety and stress for some people.
The first thing to be aware of is whether someone in your party has any mental disorder or disability. Knowing what triggers “events” or unwanted reactions can help you plan to avoid them. For example, if someone does not do well in crowded, tight spaces, they should not be expected to stand in line waiting for a ride.
Disney offers a Disability Access Service (DAS) pass that helps you bypass standing in line. When you arrive at an attraction, you receive a return time based on how long you would be waiting in the current line. That allows you to do something else with a shorter wait and return at the appointed time. Check with Guest Services to arrange a DAS pass.
While many issues can trigger mental anxiety at a Disney Park, here are some issues to consider:
- Hyperstimulation and expectation
Hyperstimulation is a definite trigger for many children and people with anxiety issues. Schedule rest or quiet time throughout the day to avoid unwanted breakdowns. While it is tempting to tell others about who and what they might see and do, it can also lead to expectations that can cause problems if those events do not materialize. You have no control over rides being shut down or characters being unavailable. When children have too many things to expect, they want to do everything all at once, which can lead to becoming overwhelmed.
- Sensory overload
For people with sensory stimulation issues, flashing lights, lasers, loud music, sound effects, fireworks, unexpected noises (including attractions), costumed characters, and various smells may trigger an overloaded sensory network.
- Escape from reality and unwillingness to return back
Disney Parks bring a welcome escape from the reality of day-to-day life for some people. However, returning to normal life and daily expectations from a vacation can be mentally and emotionally challenging.
- Dark spaces
Many attractions have dark areas that can be frightening, especially for young children.
- Tight queues and enclosed spaces
Many lines have narrow queues, and you are surrounded by hundreds of people, if not more. Lines with long waits can be filled with endless snaking lines. Some rides have enclosed areas, such as the opening room in the Haunted Mansion. If a person in your party does not do well with enclosed spaces, ask a cast member about bypassing that room.
Some of the worst times for crowds are at rope drop when the park first opens, and everyone moves forward to enter, at parades, at fireworks, and at park closing when everyone tries to leave. Try to avoid these times or ask cast members where a more open area can be found. If you find yourself at a park when it closes, wait around until the crowds thin out. One benefit is amazing pictures without a lot of background people.
- Contained vehicles
Some rides feature single-person vehicles, others are for 2 – 4 people, and some, such as boat rides, can hold rows of people. It is important to know how people in your party will react to the various seating styles and work with cast members to find a viable solution or skip these attractions.
- Vastness and lack of control
Some people need to be in control of everything around them to feel secure. It is virtually impossible at a theme park where many others are also present. Spend time considering all possibilities in advance. Preplanning is crucial before visiting a park.
A Disney vacation can be great fun, but it is essential to engage in preplanning to help everyone in the party have a good time. Expect the unexpected and be prepared to change course if needed at any point. The cast members are always happy to help and offer advice to make the visit more enjoyable. If they do not have an answer for you, they will call and find out.
Is a Disneyland Obsession a Disorder?
Adults who are obsessed with Disney are often called “Disney Adults,” and not in a complementary way. Is that a bad thing? Not always. There is nothing wrong with loving the House of Mouse and wanting to spend all your free time there – if you do not let it get in the way of reality and daily life.
Is a Disney obsession a mental disorder?
While not a legitimate medical diagnosis, some people may carry their love of Disney a bit too far. No, decorating your home with various Disney themes does not mean you have a mental issue. Surrounding yourself with things that make you feel good is never wrong.
However, if you go into serious debt and cannot pay your bills because of a Disney obsession, that is an area of concern, and you should consider seeking help. You never want anything to become that much of an obsession that it causes financial ruin.
Another issue is when an obsession leads to living in an “alternate reality.” A manifestation of this can be when you seek events to post on social media outside of the norm of real life. You perceive that only a “happy appearance” is how your life should look. Taking yourself out of reality life as an ongoing experience can lead to problems, including disillusionment in your actual life.
Social media is a dangerous outlet as we tend to believe that the “happy” images we see others post are how their daily lives are, creating something unattainable that we want. It is not often that people post photos of themselves tired, sick, or unhappy. No one’s life is perfect – no matter how it looks online.
Some people are criticized by family or friends for taking all their vacations at Disney rather than traveling elsewhere. Is that a mental disorder? Not if it is something everyone in the group enjoys. However, if a spouse or child states they would like to do something different, it is crucial to understand that need.
Mental issues are a fact of life for many people. With so many types of mental disorders, understanding the symptoms and getting the appropriate help are crucial.
- Professional help and support
If you or a loved one exhibits any warning signs of a mental disorder, seek help and provide support.
- Medicines prescribed by a doctor
Some issues may require the use of prescribed medications, including bipolar disorders. Medications can help a person significantly.
- Hormone replacement therapy (HRT)
Unknown to many people are the various ways hormonal imbalance and deficiency can lead to depression, anxiety, and stress. HRT is a well-known method of overcoming these issues. Past concerns about hormone replacement and cancer, especially for menopause and testosterone treatments, have kept many people from receiving valuable treatment. Find out if there is a connection between HRT and cancer or if it is just a myth.
Disneyland was created for people of all ages to enjoy life as it was – and life as it will be, through exploration and ongoing change. A visit to Disneyland or Walt Disney World can conjure nostalgic feelings or provide enlightened images for the future.
Preplanning is crucial, especially when members of your traveling party are subject to issues that could cause triggering events.
As with an obsession disorder, if you feel you have an unhealthy relationship with Disney (spending too much time or money) or are unable to separate reality from fantasy, seek help.