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Not all nightmares invoke fear, study finds


Posted on Saturday, 1 February, 2014 | Comment icon 8 comments

Bad dreams affect us all at some point in our lives. Image Credit: sxc.hu
Scientists have been investigating the specific emotions that separate a nightmare from a bad dream.
While most of us will remember waking up in the middle of the night after experiencing a particularly terrifying dream, researchers now believe that not all nightmares involve an element of fear. Instead, up to half of the unsettling dreams we experience may revolve around other emotions such as anger or sadness.

The team collected together more than 10,000 dream reports from 572 respondants and analyzed the emotional aspects of both nightmares (that wake the person up) and bad dreams (that generally do not cause the person to awaken.)

What they found was that nightmares tended to feature some form of physical threat such as being chased or falling from a great height, while bad dreams tended to revolve around some sort of psychological threat such as an interpersonal conflict or public embarrassment.

"Death, health concerns and threats are common themes in nightmares, but it would be wrong to think that they characterise all nightmares," said lead author Dr Genevičve Robert. "Sometimes, it is the feeling of a threat or an ominous atmosphere that causes the person to awaken. "

Source: Telegraph | Comments (8)

Tags: Nightmare, Dream

Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #1 Posted by Purplos on 31 January, 2014, 17:14
I wonder where they came up with their definitions. I've never heard them before. To me, nightmares are scary dreams. Bad dreams are ones more negative than positive. However you define things, I'm bewildered why there had to be a scientific study to find out what emotion was key in what percentage of dreams that wake you up or not. It does absolutely nothing.
Comment icon #2 Posted by FlyingAngel on 1 February, 2014, 13:19
If you got beaten, lost an object, scolded by parents for example are bad dreams. But if you got stab, fall from high height, meet a demon; those are nightmares because they trigger fear.
Comment icon #3 Posted by Ashyne on 1 February, 2014, 13:57
Although fear was the most frequently reported main emotion in nightmares and bad dreams, almost half of all disturbing dreams in the survey contained primary emotions other than fear, including anger, sadness, and frustration. All of these 3 are primarily related to fear, which still means fear is a primary emotion in nightmares. Anger- Fear of failure to self-preserve the ego, leading to aggression against the attacker. Sadness- Fear of defeat, leading to breakdown of the ego. Frustration- Fear of loss of control, leading to passive aggression against the ego The ego here represents the self... [More]
Comment icon #4 Posted by FizzPuff on 2 February, 2014, 3:50
Had a nightmare this morning. Woke up panicking. Didn't feel right for a while. Can't even remember what it was about, all I remember is "water" that's it.Oh, and someone screaming angrily. Not sure why... not sure at all.
Comment icon #5 Posted by Rye17 on 2 February, 2014, 16:42
...and how much money was wasted on this "research"?
Comment icon #6 Posted by John Mirra on 2 February, 2014, 17:04
To me a nightmare is like a horror movie or a surrealistic thriller in a dream. Bad dream is like an unpleasant experience that adheres to the laws of real life normalcy.
Comment icon #7 Posted by Cobalt60 on 12 March, 2014, 2:07
i dont know anyone else's definition of nightmares vs bad dreams...but i remember these i used to have...i would be unable to move--sound familar?--and these kept on until one time i was aware--while i was in the thing--of these two individuals standing and watching me as/while i was having the cant move thing ...and i was struggling to simply to be able to move! and those two beings were watching me, exchanging comments while i was fighting to simply move. i ignored the fear that came with it, only wanting to move! ...and i kept fighting...something must have been reached as one of them made ... [More]
Comment icon #8 Posted by Meridian O on 13 March, 2014, 0:38
I’ve experienced a few bad dreams although I wouldn’t actually label them as nightmare’s… My definition of a nightmare is when the fight or flight response is triggered during sleep hence my unconscious mind fails (or refuses) to fully understand what’s happening causing paralytic fright. Or something like that!


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