What causes recurring nightmares? © Getty Images

What causes recurring nightmares?

Frequently having recurring bad dreams can be a sign of a serious underlying problem.

Asked by: Louise Carr, Exeter


Approximately 2 to 5 per cent of the population suffers from recurring nightmares, and often the reason is that they have survived some kind of life-threatening situation, such as a car accident or a violent attack. Indeed, one study estimated that between 50 to 70 per cent of patients with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) experience chronic nightmares.

Other psychiatric conditions associated with an increased risk of experiencing frequent nightmares include schizophrenia, anxiety, and alcohol and drug abuse. Among people without a psychiatric diagnosis, a dream diary study from 2003 found that nightmares were experienced more often at times of stress.


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