If you have ever been a victim of a violent act, a traumatic event or a life changing and horrifying act of nature you know what the term PTSD is. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is no joking matter. While it is different for each person and given the trauma itself, it is nothing to take lightly. As someone who has been an abuse victim, I feel that I have one of the most common side effects. Ongoing PTSD Related Nightmares have sadly robbed me of sleep, quality sleep and comfort at night for many years now. I know I am not the only one who deals with this side effect, and so thought I would share a bit about my own journey and solutions to possibly help someone else.
ONGOING PTSD RELATED NIGHTMARES
It doesn't take a degree in psychology to understand why those who have PTSD will have nightmares. Our subconscious often pushes trauma into the back until we are relaxed and then allows it to come out. Nightmares result as a part of your hidden fears. While you may be like me and able to put on a good front and work through the daily struggles resulting from your past trauma and fear, once your body relaxes in sleep your mind takes control and you find it difficult to overcome and beat that fear down.
UNDERSTANDING YOUR DREAMS
I have never been one to think dreams have meanings, but I also cannot discount the fact that some types of dreams involved things your subconscious wants you to acknowledge or work through. For those with recurring dreams related to their PTSD it is obvious the fear and trauma involved is still at work.
Make Note Of Recurrences. If a specific location, person or action is happening in all of your dreams, take note. It is significant to your healing and something you need to accept, change or forgive.
Accept The Dream Is Not Real. When you wake up from a nightmare you are often overwhelmed with the fear that it will come true. Accept that the dream is not real, but a subconscious way for you to deal with residual issues from the trauma. Focus on the steps you have made toward healing already and let go of the fear of it becoming reality.
STEPS TO GET RID OF NIGHTMARES
Determine What You Are Actually Afraid Of. Determine what in the nightmare is actually the fear. Is it the location, the person(abuser), the abuse or event itself? Often nightmares include similar circumstances but different people or locations. Perhaps it is the act that is the fear. For me it has been the person. While I have had what would otherwise be pleasant dreams, that one individual showing up - even in a non threatening manner can bring about extreme fear.
Face Your Fears. Maybe you just need to go back to that location, walk it over and realize it can no longer hurt you. Maybe the action of abuse is something you feel defenseless against and you need to learn how to defend yourself. If it is an individual there are a multitude of things involved. Sometimes you need to literally face them and share how you feel. Other times legal actions must be taken. Sometimes you need to move to a place where they are no longer a threat in your life. For me it is a little of all. I have taken legal action. I have talked to that person and confronted them. I have forgiven them. Yet, I still find the need to move away a very strong final step toward helping me heal.
Journal Your Dreams. After a nightmare, take the time to write down the details. You'll often find recurring things that you can then pick apart and decide why they are always a part of your nightmares. This is a great method toward learning what is really causing the fear, and how you can combat it in your lives.
Determine Your Triggers. Are these daily or just periodically? If they are only periodically occurring, then you are very likely being triggered by certain things in life. Start watching, taking note and making changes to help remove the triggers from your life. Going to Walmart in my hometown is my number one trigger. Something so normal has become a health hazard for me.
Seek Professional Counseling. I cannot stress enough the need for counseling post traumatic events. Not only will you have an objective party to help you sort things out, but you can find safety in letting things out to someone who isn't closely related. Professional counselors can also provide you with other proven methods of easing the problems. Things like sleep therapy, prescription medications for depression, anxiety and sleep can all help. These however, are things a professional should be determining for you since they have the medical knowledge to know what would work best for you.
I have suffered with ongoing PTSD nightmares for over 4 years. My nightmares can be violent and horrific at times. Other times they may seem normal and calm, but the person who appears there watching is the fear factor that takes a pleasant dream and creates a nightmare from it. I have tried a multitude of things to overcome this problem. At the end of the day, I still struggle. Not as often but they are still there. I am slowly overcoming the side effects of PTSD in my life. You can too.
Thank you for sharing girl! That means a lot to me and I hope it will make a difference in someone else's life as well.
I found Jung's work with dream and nightmares to be immensely transforming. Dreams to Jung are symbolic messages to us for our healing and well - being, telling us things we don't already know. He suggests that dreams of death, for example, are about transformation- what in our life needs to "die" so that something else can be born, come alive in u s. Rape dreams were worse for me than killings, but I started to ask where in my life am I trying to overwhelm, overpower someone or something in my life, where am I not asking consent before proceeding. Those kinds of dreams actually became very helpful and changed a great deal. Now, if there is a scary man in the hallway, (in my dream) I go down a different hallway. It changed me from being a victim to bring aware of my power and where I am using it badly.
I'll definitely have to look into this more!
Thank you for sharing this. I could have written it myself...and I find so much comfort in not being alone and knowing it can get better. I also always felt a little different since the dreams involve the perpetrator and not always the trauma (which is what I thought it needed to be to be PTSD). Thank you again. I hope you are well
Thank you for stopping by. Yes, I believe the signs and symptoms of PTSD are varied. I hope that you're able to move past and no longer have nightmares.
What if the nightmares are recurring dreams That are actually more like flashbacks. It's like reliving the events/incidents (I was in a "relationship" with an extremely abusive partner and went through all kinds of hell) over and over again throughout the last years. The feelings are there the sensations everything and when i wake it takes a long time to get calmed enough to go back to sleep. I do not know if PTSD is what's causing them. It doesn't sound quite the same as the type of dreams you described above.
It definitely sounds like PTSD. I have had almost identically what you just described. Feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to chat/vent any time. (((HUGS)))
Glad to know my experience of ptsd nightmares is not an isolated symptom,and there are others who understand by experience. I have found too often psychologists and therapists do not relate well summing it up to obsessive thinking, but when it only really occurs after starting to fall asleep or the last dream before waking or the first thoughts after waking and affects mood and energy,overall wear with all for that day and there are no specific triggers to be avoided even when the big ones have been altogether eliminated, then there really is no escape. The subconscious mind takes over in beta, theta and delta. This is not a conscious form of self torture attempting to resolve the unfixable. The dream contents do not need to be terrifying to be tormenting when the people inserted are the perpetrators of some personal trauma/traumas. And when dealing with familial trauma that was not physically nor sexually abusive, it seems others who could be there as support socially are incapable of grasping what psychological trauma is. First question people always ask me if PTSD ever comes up, "Oh, you served in the military?", second response is never an assuming question because they"KNOW" it must have been one of the other two. And once I qualify no, not sexually or physically. I become this foreign alien speaking some unknown language no matter how simply and relatable the content of my dialogue.they Tune out, blank stares, and then uncomfortably back out of a conversation they were actively pursuing. I no longer expect anyone to get why I have panic attacks, am agrophobic, or weekly have insomnia no matter what I have tried. Sober yoga, mindfulness meditation, exercise, melatonin, various diet changes, various therapies and therapists, various sleep drugs, alcohol. Insomnia seems to be winning, fueled by my fear of dreaming, something I used to love about myself, and loved to do has become my regular undoing. So now when I meet the family member of a Veteran who has taken their own life while on psychotropic perscriptions, or a young person on antidepressants who is worse off for the medications, it is often clear I am the only person they have come across who will listen and understands, and can tell them with certainty those drugs are not for every body and they can do much more harm than good. Not their doctors, trained to prescribe and little else, nor parents and family who are wishfully praying there's a magic pill and drs always know best. Because I didn't have nightmares I couldn't control before medications wrecked my peace of mind along with my abusers, I did have PTSD but was often misdiagnosed for one of the symptoms always determined by the certainty and focus of the prescribing Dr. This field is very incomplete in it's treatment and even understanding of the potential variety that PTSD covers. And it's far easier to bandage a gushing wound with whatever is available, then to uncover the cure.
You are correct in that it is widely misunderstood by many. I am so very sorry you too suffer.
Thanks Katie, you too. As you well know you learn to cope as best as possible and bounce back as quickly as possible when sleep becomes disruptively disrupted. I appreciate you sharing your experience and giving a voice to this part of the phenomena known as PTSD. I think some of the hard lessons for me were not causing extra anxiety over an inability to fall asleep, already stressed out, and then also not feeling guilty over something that seemed so simple in the past to control, lay down closemy eyes and just do it. Making myself feel worse for something I lost control over made it all worse health, attitude, etc. Acceptance is a step towards progress even if it felt like giving in, "it is what of is.", and go from there. I keep searching for answers and would like to hear about any discoveries you make in this regard. And Good Luck 🙂 There are answers out there, hiding under my pillow or somewhere, I just know it!
If you ever need to talk - feel free to shoot me an email 🙂 email@example.com
I've seen a shrink for 2 years, I refuse drugs (if a drug can help then there is a way I can cope myself), I've accepted the situation (doesn't make it better, but does make it easier).
The restless sleep is a problem, but I've trained myself to fall asleep quickly. No 15-45 mins laying in bed pondering the world. I'm asleep in less than 5mins. I'll sweat sometimes from the nightmares, and I twitch a lot as well. Some but rare now I'll still wake up screaming. Makes sleeping in bed with someone really hard. Especially when ur only 26 years old and you've been suffering with PTSD nightmares for almost 5 yrs.
I've looked into lucid dreaming and feel like over time I've learned to control some aspects. It's helped with realizing it's only a dream after waking up suddenly from a night terror. Tho there are time when I end up crueling into a ball for 5 mins reminding myself it was just a dream. No physically contact can be made tho or I lose focus, makes it rather hard for any new boyfriend... as they always seem to want to console.
The struggle is real, but 5 years in and I've learned to adjust and cope with these. As you can never change and event in the past and you can never bring a brother who raised you and was your best friend back from the dead.
I am so sorry you too deal with this. It is so much harder than most understand. Huge hugs to you.
I am struggling with similar symptoms after an assault earlier this year. one day ok the meet not and the nightmares can be horrific. even the smell can be present. just want a break from it. this piece makes sense to me thank you
I am so sorry you were assaulted. (((HUGS))) I hope that your journey to healing continues and one day you find these nightmares no longer plague you.
Our home burned down and we lost everything including our 4 yr old female lab that almost went with us but changed her mind and I took her back inside. Since then I too have been diagnosed with PTSD and have horrific nightmares of our lab in the house on fire screaming for me to save her. It varies a little each time but thats the crux of it each time. I've had them now over 2 yrs and have gotten to where I just don't want to go to sleep at all. But as I'm sure you know the body will finally shut down and force sleep. So its a vicous cycle and has affected me mentally and physically. I have a counselor but its slow going and I just want them to stop. I know I couldn't have known what would happen but my subconsciousdoesn't seem to yet, or so that's what my counselor says. .
Hi Katie, I too have flashbacks & panic attacks in my sleep, then I'm too frightened to go back to sleep, my Dr said it it PTSD but mine stems from losing my husband suddenly, he collapsed at home & I tried to give him cpr until the ambulance crew arrived, sadly he didn't survive, but my flashbacks are seeing that vision over & over when I go to sleep. I hate bedtime now & think I am fighting sleep because of this.