Why do I always dream of rejection

health : Dream Research: Sick Dreams

No living being with even a spark of understanding can spend its entire existence in a state of perpetual reality. Even the crocodile and the lark periodically withdraw into the unreality of dreaming. But as the results of the research show, even dream sleep is not removed from bitter realities: Mental and physical illnesses are reflected like a ghost in the images and feelings of the nocturnal fantasies.

Already in ancient Greece it was widespread that there was an intimate connection between illnesses and dream sleep at night. Great thinkers such as Hippocrates and Socrates anticipated Siegmund Freud's belief that the dream content contained early harbingers of emerging diseases. Initial attempts to make the diagnosis solely on the basis of a dream have failed, however, because there are too many overlaps between the dreams of different patient groups.

In spite of all overlaps, the statistical evaluations of the past few years have shown that mental and physical illnesses often impose a twist on dreams that is revealed in characteristic images and sensations. The New York psychiatry professor Milton Kramer draws this balance in a new overview.

The dreams of depressed people were examined particularly intensively. This has to do with the fact that the melancholy is accompanied by a changed sleep profile, which mainly includes the REM phases accompanying the dream. These phases with the rapid eye movements are more intense and longer in depressed people and occur much faster after falling asleep. In addition, the mood-enhancing antidepressants suppress REM sleep, and selective REM sleep withdrawal is good for depressed people. Strangely enough, melancholy patients can remember dreams much less often, even if they are awakened in the middle of REM sleep. The dream reports are shorter than in healthy people, and the characteristic, negative tint of dreams increases with increasing sleep duration towards morning.

The scenery of the dream is noticeably often limited to familiar, unchanging places in the case of melancholy patients. In addition, the nocturnal visions often take place in the personal past. The dream universe is predominantly inhabited by relatives and close people. Three times as often as in healthy people, the dream ego who is depressed has the experience of feeling bad, guilty or rejected. Psychotherapists see this as a "masochistic" orientation.

Schizophrenia was interpreted by early psychoanalysts as a "lived out" dream. Overall, however, schizophrenics have little interest in their dream sleep, which, like their alert mental activity, contains many bizarre elements and implausible jumps. The paranoid imagination of being persecuted also often rubs off on the dream universe.

In the dreams of schizophrenics, unlike in the case of depressed people, there are predominantly strangers and strangers. Schizophrenics are particularly often aware of themselves in dreams and not infrequently feel restricted by others. The feeling that one's own dreams are "forced" from outside is also typical.


In patients with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTST), one of the central symptoms - in addition to concentration and memory disorders, apathy and overexcitation - is nightmares. The dreams of Vietnam veterans, raped women or traumatized children are often realistic. They return many years after the trauma and are often triggered by stressful events. In REM sleep, PTST patients are characterized by an increased wake-up threshold: they need louder tones to tear them out of their dreams; according to Kramer, a sign of their greater fixation on the inner world.

Dreams of alcoholics are to a large extent negative and show a lot of aggression directed against the dream ego. There are indications that alcoholics who have frequent drinking dreams in the first phase after withdrawal are more likely to remain abstinent than drunkards who remain dry in dreams. Could it be that the successful teetotalers expose themselves to temptation in the dream and thereby gain strength to cope? According to another study, smokers who dream of withdrawing from cigarettes often stay "clean".

As for the dreams of anorexia nervosa, puberty anorexia, mainly unsystematic descriptions by psychotherapists are available. In the dream material, they mainly perceived a lack of relationship, fewer men and a more frequent appearance of the mother. This pattern has been interpreted as a striving for self-sufficiency and a rejection of the female role.

Patients with mentally weakness (dementia) and intellectual disabilities have mostly simple dreams with everyday content. Another proof of the assumption that there is a continuity between mental content in waking life and in dream sleep. According to the controversial psychoanalytic dream theory, physical states are expressed symbolically in the imagery of nocturnal fantasy: the house as a symbol of the body, the intestine in the image of a muddy alley, the breathing lungs as a flickering stove.

The reports about the dreams of the organically ill, however, are only anecdotal and are not supported by statistical evaluations, complains Kramer. The relationship between sleep and migraines is particularly interesting because migraines often start right out of sleep. In the morning after a wake-up migraine, dream reports are clearly tinged with negative feelings, unhappiness, and aggressive interactions against the dream self. One study examined the dream reports of 17 patients with chronic high blood pressure and found there a high level of aggression. "Shallow" feelings were particularly noted in the dreams of patients with gastric ulcer. In particular, the "active negative" emotions were few and far between.

Life threatening

Freddy Kr├╝ger, the monster from the hit "Nightmare on Elmstreet" films, kills his victims in their nightmares. The belief that "bad dreams" with extremely negative emotions can be lethal in predisposed individuals is actually supported by circumstantial evidence. The medical press recently presented case studies of relatively young patients who awoke from frightening dreams with life-threatening, sometimes even fatal changes in the heart.

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