Parents turn off the lights, check under the bed and in the closet, see no monsters, say good night, turn on the night light and crack the bedroom door open just a peek. But as we get older, this regimen doesn’t ward off what lies beneath. The items in the bedroom become warped in the dark and nightmares only make it worse. Why do we have nightmares and what are they supposed to mean? Scientists find differing theories on the subject and studies continue.
Nightmares are vivid recreations of fears from a monster lurking in the shadows who eats children to an unsettling clown doll that will try to pull children under the bed. Of course, children conquer their fears as they grow up, but fears of the horror genre are not the only fuel to nightmares. People with post-traumatic stress disorder –PTSD—may have continual nightmares of one event, tormenting them.
What are nightmares?
An issue with interpreting dreams and nightmares are there is no sound scientific practice agreed on. Associate Professor of Neurology at Boston University School of Medicine, Patrick McNamara, Ph.D., writes “There is no scientifically supported system of dream interpretation.” McNamara goes into details about most dream interpretation sites using generic explanations to cover basic dreams. For example, a dream in which one is chased by a monster or villain could mean one is running away from bad memories or feelings.
“In short, what the dream interpretation websites offer up for dream interpretation systems is mere metaphor mongering.” This does not mean that explaining dreams to a therapist is a terrible idea, rather there is not always going to be an exact answer to a dream.
On psychcentral.com, they describe nightmares as, “Alarms triggered by something inside of you that needs attention.” Psychcentral also agrees with McNamara and adds, “Correctly identifying the emotions underlying your dreams is a must if you wish to understand the meaning of your nightmares, address those issues and resolve them.” Each nightmare is unique to the individual and a therapist can help the individual interpret the nightmare, offering insight. A therapist cannot offer all the answers to a nightmare.
PTSD and nightmares
PTSD can form when someone goes through a traumatic or life-threatening experience. A person with PTSD will experience or witness a traumatic event and find it difficult to recover from the event afterwards. A normal day will include with flashbacks of the traumatic event, anxiety, tension, worry, guilt or sadness. Someone with PTSD will avoid the location or similar situation of the accident as much as possible and fight with loved.
The nightmares for PTSD patients focus more around the event and the feelings associated with it, as opposed to common nightmares or bad dreams. The National Institute on Mental Health –NIMH– notes that bad dreams and nightmares of the traumatic event are common for patients with PTSD. If nightmares of a traumatic event continue, it may be wise to seek a therapist or PTSD specialist. NIMH says, “PTSD can be treated. A doctor or mental health professional who has experience in treating people with PTSD can help you. Treatment may include “talk” therapy, medication, or both.”
What you can do
Therapy has less of a taboo now, than it did years ago and people are still hesitant to look into it. With the sources listed above, therapy was a strong recommendation for nightmares and traumatic events. By talking to someone and expressing the emotions and pain, people can find healing and answers together.
Another option to help interpret dreams is to keep a dream journal. Psychcentral.com describes how keeping a journal by the bedside and filling it in with each dream will help keep track. Once dreams have been recorded, the common trends or emotions may present themselves.
To let the emotions and pain of a nightmare or traumatic event tear yourself up inside will ruin your life. If you or a loved one exhibits the signs or symptoms of PTSD or another mental illness and wish to seek treatment, please do not hesitate to call 855-559-3923.