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Are dolls therapeutic?

Dec 23, 2016

    1. Hi there! I'm a member of this forum for some time now, and after reading a lot of posts and threads, I thought this could be a good topic. And well, my partner is a psychologist and he's really interested in this too, he asked me to keep him informed.
      One of the things that I find fascinating about this hobby is the variety of ways that people can enjoy dolls. Some of us enjoy the most the customisation (sewing, doing face-ups, mods...), some others collect them, enjoy purchasing new stuff and selling old stuff, use them as models for art, photography, creating characters... And I'm sure there're people that feel them as something therapeutic. For example, I've read some posts about people that are very insecure, and customizing a doll boost their self esteem, or people that have had a tough childhood and this hobby helps them with their daily life in many ways. I think it's very interesting how dolls can be useful when it comes to mental health.

      I have never had any big problems in my life (I feel very lucky and grateful), so maybe I don't "live" this hobby as therapeutic as other people, but it's true that when I work on my doll I feel that all my stress goes away.

      I'd like to know about the person who is behind the doll. So.. what's your story?
      • x 10
    2. I think it can be as therapeutic as any other hobby. I've have/had lots of hobbies. I think anything that brings you into a community or gives you a sense of accomplishment is good for you mentally.
      • x 4
    3. Yep. The excitement of waiting for a new doll, the getting that new doll home and working on the faceup, dressing it, meeting the character has really helped to distract me from some pretty dark points. Sitting down and doing some photo shooting or playing with clothing etc really helps. Is it therapeutic? well in a way, it's distracting and for me distractions are great therapy because they stop the thoughts and stuff swirling around my head.

      Dolls are one of the few luxuries I allow myself and honestly it's taken me years to build my self worth up to a point where I can "justify" spending this sort of money on myself. The baby steps i've taken over the past decade to reach a point where I can think "yes, I CAN have this £200 toy because I want it" is a big deal because even 2 or 3 years ago i'd have been utterly unable to even fathom doing that. I'm not good at treating myself, I never have been, but i'm getting better... slowly oh so slowly, but i'm getting better at telling myself "you deserve it, you're worth it"
      I still have wobbles though.
      Particularly around this time of year when my mental health takes a pretty massive turn for the worst.
      • x 2
    4. Wow that's awesome! That's exactly what I was talking about, when I say "therapeutic" I mean exactly those kind of things. As @brightberry said, every hobby can be that way, and every hobby can make us feel good in different ways. Maybe dolls can help us in a different way than bonsai, building aircraft models or playing an instrument, to say some examples. And in any case, I don't think that the hobby "helps" us, it's just the tool we can use to help ourselves. Would that count as auto-therapy? :)
      Anyway, I'm really glad that you're getting better, @purple_monkfish . I hope you're doing good, and of course you deserve pretty things! Never doubt about that ;)
    5. Never thought about it this way..
      I had a short childhood because I had to take care of the household at a young age. After having kids of my own there was never enough money to allow me to have a hobby like this. Now I can, it's difficult to spend a lot of money just for me. I think it's difficult to put me first. Maybe a woman's thing?
      • x 1
    6. I found myself having a lot, lots of hobbies mainly because I feel lonely. I don't have any siblings, and my parents are rarely home, even when they are, they would still be working and doesn't have enough time to spend with me. Even when we went to holiday somewhere, they would still be answering emails and stuff.

      My dolls (dolls in general, not just BJDs), my pets and drawing are the only thing keeping me company and distracted me from my loneliness. So I guess that's what they were at first, a distraction. Then they started being some sort of "a friend", in a way that I sometimes talk to them about my worries and problems when customising them. I'm well aware that my dolls are not living beings and they don't listen, but it's still better than keeping my thoughts inside or talking to myself in an empty room.

      I also agree that doll customising can really boost your self-esteem, seeing your one of a kind doll and realising that you're the one who made it that way is a really wonderful feeling. It just makes you feel "Wow I did this??"
      • x 7
    7. ive definitely used dolls to help me cope. i use to collect some off topic dolls and since they were cheap sometimes i might get a doll to help cheer me up. also when i had transplant testing done i had just gotten a figma link figure just the thought being able to play with him help me get though that week (unfortunately i was way too tired to play with him each day after testing but still) also i find brushing my dolls hair very relaxing.
      • x 1
    8. This. I'm not very social and pretty shy. My doll has become a friend and confidant. He's the perfect companion for someone like me who likes alone time but not necessarily being alone all the time. . . if that makes sense.
      • x 2
    9. Absolutely. Though any hobby is therapeutic really.

      I think perhaps dolls are a bit more so though, as they are kinda little people that you can play with or just hold. I have a few reborns and they are especially nice to just sit and hold.
    10. I was introduced to the dolls through a friend I met and it took me about 4-5 years before I owned one. During that time, I was introduced to the concept of "shelling", as I am a gamer girl. When I get a doll, with very rare exception, the dolls I get are my characters. So usually there is a lot of connection with them. I have a good number of dolls displayed in my room and I find their presence comforting. It's like being among "friends" in a way, reminding me of the fun stories I've been part of. I also feel accomplished when I successfully make something for them. So, I think that qualifies as therapeutic. :)
      • x 2
    11. For me, all hobbies I pursue are therapeutic to me. I can come home very frustrated with something or sad or anxious about a deadline, and working on my BJD (sewing too) is calming.

      Certain aspects of sewing are less therapeutic for me, as Ive been sewing for 18 years, which is a lot, although I'm only 23. Due to these years of experience, sewing isn't as much of a distraction as it once was. I no longer have to attend to that moment, to focus on sewing that seam or cutting the fabric.

      Sewing, in its repetition, is meditative, but my mind can wander to what worries me, which isn't as helpful.

      When I'm cutting into resin, however, I cannot be distracted for even a moment, or I might make a mistake.

      Sewing and crafting with BJDs are both helpful in another way in providing something that I can be good at, be proud of, when something doesn't go my way or I make a mistake.

      Whether it's sewing a garment or working with a doll, it's pleasing to have ordered the universe in that way when the project is complete.
      • x 1
    12. I'm getting new dolls now because my old ones are from a very bad time in my life. Even though I don't want them around me any more, they helped me a ton back then, and I feel are honestly part of what kept me from snapping completely.

      I think back them, for me it was more about having something to talk too. I know they where not real, I knew that and didn't forget that, but they still look real, and I liked talking to them, even if it was only to myself. It helped me to look inward and learn more about myself and situation. Something I might not have done if I hadn't been talking to them. I liked just having them around too and buying new ones helped me look forward to something even in a time when everything seemed impeccably black and pointless. They made me smile.

      I'm getting more now as well, because I really do feel like they help me. I'm also really getting into sewing now because of them and I love it! So I found a new hobby I love thanks to them! :)
    13. Yes, even over my other hobbies, I find BJDs the most calming-- perhaps not as lifelong therapeutic as other people have mentioned, but just brushing hair, looking at their pretty faces, playing with their joints, etc. is meditative and makes me feel calm.

      For me, the BJD hobby is low-effort but high-reward. It's so easy to grab a BJD off the shelf, sit, and just admire them for instant satisfaction. For this reason, BJDs are a more therapeutic hobby for me than, say, art or writing (which are more strategic and effort-requiring, as I pressure myself to create "high-quality" things that I'm happy with. I don't feel that pressure with the BJDs. They exist as they are, and most of the work is done for me.)

      So, in terms of an immediate, quiet, introspective, calming experience-- yes, I find BJDs to be the most therapeutic of all my hobbies. In terms of long-term/overarching life-level changes, I don't think they impact me a whole lot.
      • x 2
    14. I feel they can be just as much as anything else that brings you joy and comfort.
    15. I relate to this very much; my hobbies (Pokemon/Disney collectible plush, BJDs, drawing, writing, photography, and more) are therapeutic outlets for me. That's why I love my hobbies so much, they bring me peace and help me focus on something other than the stress and worries that come from work or family issues. I also like my own quiet time at home with just me and my fiance (socializing at work for 8 hours is more than enough for me) but he works in the evenings and some weekends when I'm off and it's nice to have some company, so dolls and plush are perfect for someone like me :)
      • x 3
    16. @AmberLeigh

      Im glad your dolls are good company for you--In a way, mine are for me as well, because they occupy mine time doing something I enjoy. (They also encourage/motivate other experiences or learning--I'd never really sculpted for realism or carved before dolls.)
      • x 1
    17. YES, I do believe it is therapeutic, just like other hobby activities. It makes you concentrate and think and plan, and it can be very fulfilling and enjoyable, no matter how you "play" with your dolls. And there are many different ways!

      I think it may be a little different when your hobby is dolls, though. I believe some people empathize with dolls because they look more human. We might think of them as having the same emotions, feelings and problems that we do.

      Speaking just for myself, when I got my first doll, my coworkers noticed a difference in me. They said I seemed happier and in a good mood more often. They used to joke that my doll was my therapist!

      Linda S.
    18. My dolls help me calm down when I'm in stressful situations and having a panic attack.
      I take my dolls to cons with me, not just to show off and make other friends in the hobby but because they actually help me communicate with others and calm down. I find that when holding one, it's easier to communicate with people because I'm less anxious. I think it's because I have something to hold onto. Also, when I get really upset and have a panic attack, they give me the same comfort that my cat does. It's helpful when I'm on vacation or at a convention and can't have my fluffy buddy with me.
      • x 1
    19. My dolls have been great comforts for life changes and my anxiety. I don't have any pets or children, so the dolls give me a purpose. I like to change their clothes and wigs, photoshoots, and take care of them. The sentimental value that they have in my life can't be measured and I can't imagine my life without them.
    20. Like many others said before, I very much think it's therapeutic.
      Working on sewing or face ups gives me maybe a sense of control, and some me-time to disconnect from everything else, as well as being rewarding when I manage making something pretty.
      It's much more giving and calming to me than for example browsing around online.