A recurring dream is a dream which is experienced repeatedly over a long period. They can be pleasant or nightmarish and unique to the person and their experiences. There is evidence that recurring dreams can be a symptom to help diagnose some psychological disorders.
History and background
There have been reports that the historical paintings that cave men and women have left could help explain how dreams occurred during that time: Some researchers read repeated pictures as symbols of recurrent dreams. Since cave people are not known to have used words, they used different forms of communication, and one could have been through the paintings. What the meaning of these paintings has many different interpretations.
The Egyptians actually recorded dreams onto the wall. They expressed dreams and moments in history using hieroglyphics keep records of the past. Dreams, visions, and other abstract ideas of the mind were written in hieroglyphics. "Hieroglyphics are visual, and far more emphasis is accorded sculptural and painterly representation of mythical entities".  Mythical entities were associated with dreams because they were part of that way of life, and language was used to express importance to pass on to future generations of the Egyptian people.
In the medieval times recurrent dreams were seen with suspicion. If someone kept having the same dreams it was thought that something demonic controlled their bodies, or that it was a sign of physical illness, or a mental disease. People of this time did not talk to other people about their dreams, and they meant that something was wrong or that an unresolved problem was about to occur in one's life. The mind in medieval times was seen as something that could not expressed any abstract thinking.
A current historical context is the view Native Americans have with dreams: They view it as a part of the culture and their of way of life. Dreams that were recurring meant a number of things. They believed people who had recurrent dreams were gifted, spiritual, and strong. Some dreamers could be associated with a person called a Medicine Man. To the Native Americans dreams repeating were either warning signs or good future signs. They believed that their bodies were connected to the earth and the earth could communicate through many ways. One of the ways of communicating with the earth was through dreams.
Common themes in recurring dreams
Through psychological analyses and studies, some recurrent themes have been identified. These include dreaming of being chased and pursued, which has been repeatedly demonstrated as being the most frequently experienced recurrent theme. The following themes below have been found to contribute to more than half of recurring dreams: 
- Difficulties with house maintenance
- Teeth falling out - Freud believed that if a woman had a recurring dream of her teeth falling out that she unconsciously longed to have children. He believed that if a man had this dream he was afraid of castration. 
- Discovering new rooms in a house - Freud believed that houses represented bodies. Others thought finding new rooms represented the dreamer finding out new things about themselves or of their own potential. 
- Losing control of a vehicle
- Being unable to find a toilet
- Having the ability to fly
The subjects of recurring dreams do vary. The following examples are also common:
- Being held down or otherwise unable to move (compare sleep paralysis)
- Nakedness in a public place
- Being held back in school or failing a test
- Losing the ability to speak
- Escaping or being caught in a tornado/storm
- Drowning, or otherwise not being able to breathe
- Finding lost items
- Unable to turn on the lights in one's house
Psychological disorders associated with recurring dreams
- Post Traumatic Stress Disorder: People suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder can often suffer from recurring dreams. These dreams are thought of as chronic nightmares that act as a symptom of PTSD. A study found that the degree of trauma had a positive relationship to distress related to dreams 
- Anxiety: Evidence suggests that recurrent dreams occur during times of stress and once the problem has resolved they will cease to recur. 
- Obsessive compulsive disorder
Possible explanations for recurring dreams
Much research has been done to try and find the connection between recurring dreams and their underlying values. There is some evidence that recurring dreams are an attempt to resolve emotional preoccupations. Another finding represents recurring dreams as a rehearsal of threat perception and avoidance. Threatening elements are often present in recurring dreams, as well as them occurring in stressful periods of ones life. They can often relate to psychological well-being and can reflect current issues a person may be going through. Below is a list of some of the more prominent explanations for recurrent dreams.
- Threat simulation theory - This theory was proposed by Antti Revonsuo and states the biological function of dreaming is to simulate threatening events and then rehearse threat avoidance behaviors. However, this theory has come with mixed reviews. Zadra et el. found in a study on this theory that 66% of recurrent dreams contained at least one threat. For the most part, these threats involved danger and were aimed at the dreamer themselves. In contrast however, they also found that less than 15% of recurrent dreams involved realistic situations that could prove critical to ones survival. They also found that the dreamer usually did not succeed at fleeing the threat. These provide mixed support for the theory originally proposed by Rensuo.
- Gestaltist dream theory - This theory views recurrent dreams as representing the person's current state of psychic imbalance. By bringing this imbalance to consciousness through the recurrent dream, it is possible for the person to restore their self-balance 
- Freud believed that recurrent traumatic dreams showed expressions of neurotic repetitive compulsions.
- Jung believed that recurrent dreams played an important role in the integration of the psyche. 
- Culturalist dream theory, brought to light by Bonime in 1962, holds that recurrent dreams represent a lack of positive change or development in a person's personality.
Treatment methods for recurring dreams
- Practicing relaxation techniques and imagery exercises before going to sleep is a popular treatment suggestion. By imagining the dream and an intentional task to be carried out during the dream, the person will remember to carry out that task when they are actually dreaming. Then, when it occurs in the dream it will act as a prerehearsal cue in order to remind the person that they are dreaming, where they then can interact with the dream imagery. Once this is achieved, they can consult with their therapist the best way to modify their recurrent dream to make it less traumatizing. There are several different proposals suggested to go about doing this.
- Confront and conquer the feared scene, suggested by Garfield in 1974.
- Alter a small aspect of the dream, suggested by Halliday in 1982.
- Have the dream ego engage in concilatory dialogue along with hostile dream figures, suggested by Tholey in 1988 
- Pinna, B., & Reeves, A. (2009). From perception to art: how vision creates meanings. Spatial Vision, 22 (3), 225-272
- Cook, A. (1977) Language and Myth. Boundary 2, 5 (3), 653-678.
- Yu, C. (2010). Recurrence of typical dreams and the instinctual and delusional predispositions of dreams. Dreaming, 20(4), 254-279
- Delaney, G. (1997). In Your Dreams: Falling, Flying and Other Dream Themes. New York: Harper San Francisco
- Davis, J. L., Byrd, P., Rhudy, J. L., & Wright, D. C. (2007). Characteristics of chronic nightmares in a trauma-exposed treatment-seeking sample. Dreaming, 17(4), 187-198. doi:10.1037/1053-07188.8.131.52
- Barret, D. (2001) Trauma and Dreams. Harvard University Press
- Zadra, A., Desjardins, S., & Marcotte, E. (2006) Evolutionary function of dreams: A test of the threat simulation theory in recurrent dreams. Consciousness and Cognition, 15, 450-463