|Classification and external resources|
Nightmare disorder, also known as 'dream anxiety disorder', is a sleep disorder characterized by frequent nightmares. The nightmares, which often portray the individual in a situation that jeopardizes their life or personal safety, usually occur during the second half of the sleeping process, called the REM stage. Though such nightmares occur within many people, those with nightmare disorder experience them with a greater frequency. The disorder's DSM-IV number is 307.47.
During the nightmare, the sleeper may groan and move slightly. The victim is often awakened by these threatening and frightening dreams and can often vividly remember their experience. Upon awakening, the sleeper is unusually alert and oriented within their surroundings, but may have an increased heart rate and symptoms of anxiety, like sweating. They may have trouble falling back to sleep for fear they will experience another nightmare.
A person experiencing nightmare disorder would have trouble going through everyday tasks; the anxiety and lack of sleep caused by the fearful dreams would hinder the individual from completing everyday jobs efficiently and correctly.
Nightmares can be caused by extreme stress or anxiety if no other mental disorder is discovered. The death of a loved one or a stressful life event can be enough to cause a nightmare but mental conditions like post-traumatic stress disorder and other psychiatric disorders have been known to cause nightmares as well.
If the individual is on medication, the nightmares may be attributed to some side effects of the drug. Amphetamines, antidepressants, and stimulants like cocaine can cause nightmares. Blood pressure medication, levodopa and medications for Parkinson's disease have also been known to cause nightmares.
Children are more apt to experience nightmares than teenagers and adults. Young children normally have nightmares once or twice a week and will usually not develop a nightmare disorder unless they are under severe psychological stress. Children who have persistent nightmares range from 10% to 50%. A child would usually not be diagnosed with nightmare disorder however, since children normally experience many nightmares when they are young.
Students normally experience 4 to 8 nightmares a year and adults only have nightmares once or twice a year. About 3% of young adults report having recurring nightmares and 1% of adults recount having nightmares once or twice a week. If a student or adult is suffering from excessive nightmares, or has a recurring nightmare they may want to seek help as this may be a symptom of a more serious condition.
There are many ways to treat dream anxiety without seeking the help of a therapist. Alleviating stress within the home and personal life is a good way to eliminate any anxiety the individual may have upon going to bed. A regular fitness routine and perhaps relaxation therapy would help to make the individual fall asleep faster and more peacefully. Yoga and meditation can also help to eliminate stress and create a more peaceful sleeping atmosphere. Psychotherapy can also help an individual learn how to cope and deal with the various stressors in their life.
Diagnosis and medication can only be given to patients that report the recurring nightmares to a psychiatrist or other physician. Medications like prazosin are sometimes used to treat nightmares in people with PTSD. Therapy usually helps to deal with the frightening themes of the nightmares and alleviate the recurrence of the dreams. The persistent nightmares will usually improve as the patient gets older. Treatments are generally very successful.
Recent research on nightmare disorder
- Dissociative disorders are usually paired with Nightmare Disorder 57% of the time. Nightmare disorder is believed to be associated with Dissociative Disorders as a defense mechanism that is used to escape from the traumatic event that caused the Dissociative Disorder. People with Dissociative Disorder and Nightmare disorder are more likely to self-mutilate, attempt suicide, and have Borderline Personality Disorder.
- Borderline Personality Disorder with Nightmare Disorder is very common, since the stages of sleep vary from that of a normal person (i.e. increased stage one sleep, and less stage four sleep). People with Borderline Personality disorder and Nightmare Disorder are usually the severest of those who have Borderline Personality Disorder; therefore, treating those with Nightmare Disorder may also help some with Borderline Personality Disorder.
- Hypnosis seems to be a new and effective treatment for those with Nightmare Disorder, since it increases relaxation.
- Nightmare disorder is also associated with those who have lower cholesterol. This connection is unclear; however, cholesterol may affect other hormones in the body (such as serotonin) which may affect one’s sleep.
- Murray A. Raskind, Elaine R. Peskind, Evan D. Kanter, (February 2003). Reduction of Nightmares and Other PTSD Symptoms in Combat Veterans by Prazosin: A Placebo-Controlled Study, American Journal of Psychiatry, (160) 371-373.
- "Drug Helps PTSD Nightmares" (Press release). Department of Veteran Affairs. March 30, 2008. Retrieved 2012-06-23. (Archived page)
- Nightmare Disorder
- MY, A., H, K., OA, O., Y, S., U, K., & B, O. (2003, December). Clinical importance of nightmare disorder in patients with dissociative disorders. Psychiatry And Clinical Neurosciences, 57(6), 575-579.
- Semiz, U., Basoglu, C., Ebrinc, S., & Cetin, M. (2008, February). Nightmare disorder, dream anxiety, and subjective sleep quality in patients with borderline personality disorder. Psychiatry & Clinical Neurosciences, 62(1), 48-55.
- Kennedy, G. (2002, November). A review of hypnosis in the treatment of parasomnias: Nightmare, sleepwalking, and sleep terror disorders. Australian Journal of Clinical & Experimental Hypnosis, 30(2), 99-155.
- Agargun, M., Gulec, M., Cilli, A., Kara, H., Sekeroglu, R., Dulger, H., et al. (2005, May). Nightmares and Serum Cholesterol Level: A Preliminary Report. Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, 50(6), 361-364.
- Psychology Today article on Nightmare disorder