The Effect of Nightmares in Adults
How to Deal with NightmaresPublished on Tuesday, February 22nd, 2011 at 9:19 pm and is filed under Mental Disorders
So what are nightmares? Nightmares are disturbing, visual dream sequences that you see in your mind and they cause you to wake up from your sleep, usually rapidly, causing you considerable distress with symptoms such as fear, dilated pupils, anxiety, increased heart rate, and sweating; this hyper-anxiety is even more observable in patients experiencing sleep terrors.
Stress and / or PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) are thought to be the most common causes of nightmares. A person who has experienced a severe trauma such as rape or a personal attack or witnessed something horrific may well suffer from PTSD and nightmares are then extremely likely to follow, sometimes over a period of many years. Where somebody experiences many nightmares and most of their nights are badly disturbed by one or more nightmares, the person’s stress can rise alarmingly and then that person can very easily go over the brink and have a nervous breakdown.
A person who is naturally nervous or who is suffering from depression, panic disorder or anxiety may develop panic attacks during sleep as well as having bad nightmares; when a person is having a panic attack while they are sleeping, they may appear to an outsider to be neither awake nor asleep and are extremely frightened and will not respond to another person. Dream anxiety disorder aka Nightmare disorder, is characterized by the occurrence of repeated dreams during which the sleeper feels threatened and frightened.
A sleep specialist may be able to help in cases where nightmares are causing severe distress to the patient.
How to Deal with Nightmares
Various techniques such as going out for long walks, doing yoga or meditation, writing down notes about the nightmare, thinking of a happy ending to a bad dream, adjusting our diet to cut back on caffeine, alcohol, sugars, fats, etc may well stop or at least reduce the number of, and the severity of, nightmares. Talking about the nightmare can also resolve stressful issues and keep them from building up in a person’s mind.
Chronic nightmares, experienced by sexual assault survivors with PTSD, are treated quite effectively by using Imagery Rehearsal Therapy (IRT)where the unfortunate sufferer actively tries to re-engineer the nightmare during the day when they are awake, and then rehearses this new scenario many times in their mind in order to retrain their brain into believing that this new sequence of events was actually what happened to them instead of the original actual event.