123 years after the publication of “The Interpretation of Dreams” by Sigmund Freud, dreams and their meaning continue to question scientists. A recent study published in the journal Dreaming analyzed the dreams of people with anxiety disorders. “The results of our study show that the dream content of anxious patients differs markedly from that of healthy people and contains more negative and unpleasant elements“, explains the psychologist and ‘lead author of this work Anton Rimsh, of the Universität Düsseldorf in Germany. “Although anxiety disorders are well studied, little is known about the content of patients’ dreams with anxiety disorders,” the researchers said.
Dreams: no more “negative and unpleasant elements”
In practice, the study involved tracking the content of the dreams of 38 patients with anxiety disorders through dream diaries, questionnaires and individual dream analysis, and comparing them with those of 38 so-called “ in good health”. Thus, each morning upon waking up, each study participant had to write accounts of his dreams in a diary for 21 days.
“The participants’ dream reports were analyzed according to the Hall and Van de Castle’s dream content analysis system (1966)”, detailed the researchers. As a result, the scientists found a significant difference between the dreams of anxious people and those of others, whether in terms of content or recurring themes that their dreams could contain. no more “negative and unpleasant elements”.
Dreams: what are the recurring themes among anxious people?
During their study, the researchers noted in particular that some common characteristics were found in dreams many attendees. Indeed, they found similar references in the nocturnal dreams of anxious people such as:
- Past loves. Indeed, ex-romantic partners or ex-spouses were more common in the dream content of people with anxiety disorders than in the dreams of so-called healthy people.
- A great speed. The dreams of patients with anxiety disorders were characterized by the frequent presence of a high speed and cadence in the occurrence of events with also rapidly moving figures, objects and means of transport.
- Great emotional intensity. The presence of an anxiety disorder results in a higher intensity of dream experiences and imagery. Indeed, according to the researchers, in anxious patients, the content of dreams is not only very abundant, but it is also experienced with particularly high intensity.
Dreams: why anxious people pay more attention to them
The study conducted by Anton Rimsh also suggests thatan anxious patient is more likely to analyze and deconstruct their dreams. Two reasons explain this tendency according to him. First is the fact that people with anxiety disorders “generally tend to be preoccupied with experiences and events in their waking life.” According to the psychologist, it is this concern that also takes over when it comes to their dreams.
The author of the study also assumes that the anxious people tend to see their dreams as the key to their problems of waking life. The obsessive interpretation of their dreams thus becomes a means of solving the problems they encounter when they are awake. “This process can be represented as a vicious circle, which is not so easy to break or tear. To do this, an individual needs the professional and qualified help of a practicing psychotherapist”, specifies the researcher with psychologist Mark Travers, for the magazine Forbes.
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