Are nightmares cathartic?:


Do nightmares increase or decrease anxiety? Theoretical views of nightmares suggest that nightmares play out stressful events, decathecting their energy. A more pragmatic view suggests that nightmares that result in waking distress add to the burden of anxiety. The current study investigates whether negative life events are associated with an increase or decrease in anxiety attributable to nightmares in 624 adolescents aged between 12 and 19. The results indicate no support for a tension reduction hypothesis. There seems no relief from anxiety if a person reports nightmares, and the stronger the distress of waking (from nightmares), the more likely a person is to report anxiety, controlling for life events and the distress associated with life events. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2009 APA, all rights reserved)

Source: “Nightmares, life stress, and anxiety: An examination of tension reduction.” from the journal “Dreaming”

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