Stess in Life, Stress in Sleep – Most Common Anxiety Dreams

I use sleep to escape my really low points. This works for the most part, unless I have anxiety dreams. In this case, sleep is stressful, life is stressful and I wake up exhausted. Things usually spiral out of control pretty quick.

Dream research from the University of California has found continuities between dream elements and waking life. Typically, the elements represented the concerns and interests of the dreamer, suggesting that dreams do have meaning. They have also found similarities among cultures, genders and age groups. Dream interpretation is complex and individual. Two people can have similar dreams, but their life situations differ, ultimately giving different symbolism to the elements in their dream. Having an anxiety dream about a growing mass of insects could mean you have an insect phobia, or it could mean that you have a growing problem in your life. It’s open to interpretation.

Here are some of the most common anxiety dreams and some interpretations of the elements in them.

My teeth fall out. I absolutely hate this one. I have it the most often. It happens slightly differently each time. So I always think OMG it’s actually happening for real this time!! I’m never quite sure that it’s just a dream until I’ve checked in the mirror and tried to wiggle a few teeth.
What it means. Apparently this one is really common. Have you had it? Teeth are often interpreted as a symbol of power. So losing them would signify a loss of control. In other cases teeth could represent losing face. Maybe you have a situation where you are worried about what others might think of you?

Unprepared for an exam. I have to write the final exam and I haven’t even been to class yet. This one really makes me sweat since I am, technically, still in school. Usually it’s a math exam and I haven’t gone to classes because I’ve been too depressed. In real life, I am teaching myself statistics, so you see how confusing this can get.
What it means. This one is rather obvious. You are likely feeling unprepared for a real life situation. Often people having this dream have a lot of work-related stress.

The Car is not working. I’m in the car and I can’t control it. I’ve had this dream since before I could actually drive. I’m in the car and it’s moving forward, slowly. Sometimes there are people with me, sometimes not. Nothing in the car is working. Not the steering, not the breaks. I just keep moving forward slowly towards something…usually something that puts me into panic mode. Like on-coming traffic. With this one, I can usually figure out I’m dreaming and take back control.
What it means. This one is interpreted in different ways. Sometimes it means some part of your life is dysfunctional, like a relationship for instance. Another variation, If you are the passenger, perhaps you are uneasy relinquishing control to the driver. If you are the one in the driver’s seat (this is what I dream), it could symbolize responsibility. You are not quite comfortable in the driver’s seat of your own life.

I’m being chased. I’ve only had this one once that I can recall. You are running from someone/thing and can’t get away. I imagine this scenario is often accompanied by screaming or fighting. It drives me nuts when I try to scream and it comes out at a conversational level or when you try to punch the bad guy and it all happens in slow motion. So frustrating! I usually know I’m dreaming then though and it’s not so bad anymore.
What it means. The key to this one is figuring out what the pursuer represents. It is usually someone/thing you are threatened by.

I’m naked in public. I didn’t start having this one until very recently. I’m usually in a bathing suit environment and have forgotten my top or something. I’m completely embarrassed, but no one seems to notice my predicament.
What it means. This usually represents a life scenario where you are feeling vulnerable, not confident or unskilled. Since no one is noticing, it may mean your feelings are unfounded. A better meaning than other dreams, but a stressful dream none the less.

I’m drowning. This one is scary. I’m underwater, running out of air and I can see the surface. I swim towards it, but I can never seem to break through. I usually wake up at this point because I’ve been holding my breath.
What it means. This is most often associated with being overwhelmed or denying yourself an emotion that you need to be feeling.

I’m falling. I’ve never had this one, but it is considered common.
What it means. It usually means you feel unsupported or out of control in a real life situation.

I see dead people. I don’t mean zombies here. This is the absolute worst one I have by far! I always wake up in tears and gasping for air. I dream that my Gran has been alive all these years and no one has told me. They left me thinking she was dead. In reality, she died ten years ago this month.
What it means. I’ve read that seeing a dead relative means you miss them and it’s a coping mechanism or a last opportunity to say goodbye. That part makes sense but, I don’t really know why I would be thinking she was dead and only find out later she was still alive. I’m lost as to what that detail means. Any ideas? It really bothers me.

How do you make them stop?
There are so many methods to try. Most of them involve some form of relaxation exercise and altering you’re thought patterns either before bed of during the dream. This doesn’t work for me. I don’t know how to relax and I can only alter my thought patterns in some dream scenarios (like the car or when I’m fighting someone). In more extreme cases, there are medications, but they stop the good dreams too and if you are like me and have your own personal pharmacy in the medicine cabinet, then you don’t really want to add to it. Diet and exercise can influence your dreams too. Seems like those two factors influence everything. All you can really do is try these methods and see what works for you. Everyone is different.

What works for me? Constant, unchanging noise. The sound of a fan, rain hitting the window, the crackle of the fire, things like that. My favourite anti-anxiety dream noise is music from the Phantom of the Opera. The voices and the music blend together in such a way that nothing sticks out and it’s just pleasant sound. I’ve never had a bad dream going to sleep to The Phantom of the Opera. I wonder if other musicals/operas would work?


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