Experiencing or witnessing upsetting events can lead to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a mental health condition that affects 7.7 million American adults. The disorder can cause people to feel anxious and afraid, leading to flashbacks and nightmares. In fact, up to 96 percent of people with PTSD have these upsetting dreams.
What causes PTSD?
Physical torture or sexual harassment
Too much work pressure and less personal time
several mental trauma like miscarriage, losing someone very close
Prolonged health issues
Witnessing something very harsh
Only 33% of the people develop PTSD out of these experiences. Researchers cannot confirm the exact reason behind it but there are certain factors
which boost the likelihood of happening this.
Fortunately, there are several approaches to treating PTSD-related nightmares. If you or someone you love is dealing with PTSD, read on to understand how it impacts sleep and available treatment options.
What are the types of PTSD
Normal Stress Response
Occurs to healthy adults for emotional reasons like relationships, unrealistic expectations, and bad memories
Acute Stress Disorder
Can happen to anyone irrespective of ages caused by panic reactions, insomnia, suspicious nature, neglecting self-care wok and relationships
Continuous re-experience of the traumatic event, avoidance of trauma-related stimuli, mental numbness, and symptoms of enhanced excitement
It is actually much more prevalent to combine PTSD with other psychiatric disorders than uncomplicated PTSD. PTSD is typically associated with at least one other significant psychiatric disorder such as depression, abuse of alcohol or drug, panic disorder, and other anxiety disorders.
Complex PTSD (sometimes called "Extreme Stress Disorder") is discovered among people who have been subjected to extended traumatic conditions, particularly during adolescence, such as sexual abuse during adolescence.
The Nightmare Connection
For people with PTSD, nightmares aren’t just generic scary dreams—they generally, revolve around the person’s traumatic experience, forcing survivors to relive the pain on a regular basis. Someone who witnessed a shooting, for example, may find that the event replays in his or her nightmares.
For some people, nightmares start soon after the traumatic event; others may go years before having their first bad dream. The nightmares typically occur earlier in the night, and people may react physically to them, thrashing around in their sleep or shouting.
What You Can Do for PTSD diagnosis and management
PTSD treatment can help lower the frequency of trauma-related nightmares. There are several approaches to treatment, and the optimal strategy varies from person to person. It may involve types of cognitive therapy, meditation, medication, and more.
If the nightmares don’t stop after PTSD treatment, imagery rehearsal therapy may help. This technique involves having people who are experiencing nightmares recall their bad dream and come up with a new ending while they are awake so that it no longer upsets them. They then “rehearse” the new ending over and over in their mind, with the goal of it carrying over the next time the nightmare occurs, eventually reducing the frequency of the upsetting dream.
Medication is rarely prescribed for PTSD-related nightmares, but if nothing else is working—or if the nightmares are severe—talk to your doctor. Research shows that certain drugs, such as sympatholytic medication used to treat high blood pressure, may help. Remember, while PTSD is serious, many people are successfully treated and go on to live full, happy lives.