Dreams and Mental Illness

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Dreams and Mental Illness

Dreams and Mental Illness

Everyone experiences the occasional nightmare, especially if they’re stressed or agitated. Although nightmares are generally normal, persistent and frequent disturbing dreams may indicate underlying mental health problems. If these nightmares intensify, it could be a sign of digression in your mental health.

Connection Between Mental Illness and Dreaming

As a rehab facility for mental health care in South Florida, we know that the brain is a complex structure that has yet to be fully understood. There are many areas of the brain that continue to stump doctors and researchers all over the globe. For decades, researchers have conducted studies to define the relationship between dreams and mental illness. As studies continue, several mental disorders have been linked to nightmares and other particular dreams.


Borderline Personality Disorder

Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is a mental disorder that produces unstable mood swings and behavior. It causes emotional instability, which can affect a person’s behavior and their relationships with others. A study conducted in 2012 reported that people with this particular form of mental illness are more likely to experience more negative dreams or nightmares, as well as experience more stress from their dreams when they wake up.1 Because these persistent and disturbing nightmares can be distressing, they may also trigger further BPD symptoms.


Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder


Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a disorder in which an individual has trouble recovering from a terrifying event or experience. It’s common for people with PTSD to have nightmares. We often dream about traumatic experiences, and individuals with this condition may suffer from extremely unsettling nightmares that are reminders or reenactments of the incident. Any sleep disorder could also worsen these symptoms. Research has indicated that dreams and PTSD are linked to issues in parts of the brain, such as the hippocampus, amygdala, and locus coeruleus.2 These nightmares continue to cause anxiety after the person wakes up, making it difficult for them to return to sleep. Repeated disruptions in sleep can cause fatigue and irritability.

Our trauma recovery treatment at Behavioral Health of the Palm Beaches can help you or someone you know who is suffering from PTSD. Our specialized treatment plan targets the source of the trauma and focuses on helping patients overcome their anxiety and find new ways to cope with their symptoms in the future.



The correlation between dreams and mental health is often linked to schizophrenia. Schizophrenia is known for altering a person’s behavior. Individuals with this disorder usually have an inability to stay in touch with reality and struggle with disorganized speech and behavior. Schizophrenia symptoms like hallucinations, paranoia, anxiety, and intense fear can cause nightmares and terrifying dreams. In a 2012 study, researchers discovered that participants with mental illnesses like Schizophrenia had fewer friends in their dreams. Participants with this disorder also had less colorful dreams compared to patients without a mental illness.3 These minor details are indicators of poor mental health. Higher rates of hostility also occur frequently in the dreams of schizophrenics.4

At our addiction and mental health treatment center, we know that dreams and mental illness go hand in hand. If you or a loved one is suffering from poor mental health, do not wait to get help. Call us now at 561-220-3981 for more information on our various mental health and substance abuse treatment programs.


  1. NIH- Sleep and dreaming in patients with borderline personality disorder: a polysomnographic study
  2. NCBI- Management of nightmares in patients with posttraumatic stress disorder: current perspectives
  3. NCBI- Evaluation of Dream Content among Patients with Schizophrenia, their Siblings, Patients with Psychiatric Diagnoses other than Schizophrenia, and Healthy Control
  4. NIH- Anxiety and hostility in the manifest dreams of schizophrenic patients

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