A new study from the University of Düsseldorf has identified three themes that are more common in the dreams of people with anxiety disorders.
The study aimed to examine the specific characteristics that appear in the dreams of people diagnosed with clinical anxiety disorder and compare them with those of healthy people. Two groups of dreamers, 38 people with disorders and 38 healthy people, were followed up using dream diaries, questionnaires, and individual dream analysis and then compared.
The researchers concluded that there was a significant difference in the content of dreams, and some themes were found to be more common among people with anxiety disorders. These include stalking, physical assault, freezing from fright, the death of loved ones, and accidents such as plane crashes and others.
In addition to the fact that the dreams of people with anxiety disorders contained more of these negative characteristics, they also contained fewer of the positive ones, with fewer friendship interactions or successes. They also included more characters, locations, travel and transportation, and verbal communication than the dreams of healthy people.
In addition to some recurring themes in the dreams of patients with anxiety, there were also three dominant defining characteristics. These include dreams about a former love interest, including former partners. Another characteristic is that the dreams of people with anxiety disorders tend to be associated with great force and speed, such as fast-moving vehicles.
The third characteristic was overall subjective sleep intensity, which the researchers found was higher in patients with anxiety. In terms of dream emotions, patients with anxiety experienced more negative feelings, including anger, fear, apprehension, and sadness, and fewer positive ones, such as happiness.
Scientists believe that the dreams of anxious people “may represent the experience of experiencing a frightening, hostile and dangerous environment in their real life.”