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Nightmare Disorder – Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

Verified By Dr Yeshwanth Paidimarri November 23, 2021 2649 0
Nightmare Disorder
Nightmare Disorder

Nightmare disorder is one where recurrent and distressing nightmares occur. A nightmare is a disturbing dream linked to negative feelings like anxiety or fear that wakes you up. 

Occassional nightmares are normal, but if they occur frequently, it is considered a disorder .

What is a nightmare disorder?

Nightmares are dreams which may be stressful, upsetting or troublesome. They occur during rapid eye movement sleep. Many people experience nightmares every night, and these bad dreams disturb their mood, sleep and daily activities..


What are the symptoms of nightmare disorder?

It occurs when people experience vivid and terrifying  dreams frequently. Generally, patients wake up in the middle of their sleep. Some symptoms are:

  • Fear having more nightmares
  • Fatigue, sleepiness, unknown fear and low energy during the day
  • Nightmares occurring many times at night
  • Concentration problems and memory loss
  • Changes in behavior
  • Fear of the dark
  • Daytime activities suffering due to the disorder

Anybody can suffer from a nightmare disorder. A patient feels insecure and fearful throughout the day and at night.

What causes nightmare disorder?

The exact reason is unexplained. Some causes include:

  • Trauma
  • Anxiety or stress
  • Medications
  • Sleep distress
  • Depression
  • Consumption of alcohol and drugs

When do you need to see a doctor?

Nightmares may occassionally occur in everybody’s life. But in some cases, it interrupts daily life, personally and professionally. In some cases, children who suffer from nightmare disorder behave abnormally. Professional help needs to be sought of nightmares are recurrent and disrupt daily life .


Call 1860-500-1066 to book an appointment.

What are the lifestyle remedies?

Some remedies can include:

  • Getting  family support
  • Relaxing before going to bed
  • Taking the help of meditation to keep calm
  • Talking about dreams to others
  • Journaling about dreams
  • Using  a night light

How is nightmare disorder treated? 

The cause can help determine the treatment. Treatment options may include:

  • Medical treatment: If nightmares are linked to an underlying medical condition, treatment is directed at the underlying condition.
  • Stress or anxiety treatment: Doctors may recommend stress-reduction methods, therapy or counseling with a mental health expert.
  • Imagery rehearsal therapy: Imagery rehearsal therapy is often used with those who have nightmares owing to Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The therapy involves changing the ending to your nightmare remembered while awake so that it does not threaten. Then, you rehearse the new ending in the mind. This approach may decrease the frequency of your nightmares.
  • Medication: Medicines are used very rarely for treating nightmare disorder. But, medicines may be advised for severe nightmares linked to PTSD.


Don’t neglect nightmare disorder as it can affect the quality of life.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs):

Can a patient become mentally ill due to nightmares?

Nightmares cause stress and anxiety disorder, and in rare cases, a patient may need psychiatric treatment. It is a mental state but not a mental illness.

Why do patients get nightmares frequently?

This happens mainly because of an increase in stress and anxiety levels. 

What is the distinction between night terrors and nightmares?

In the case of a nightmare disorder, a patient can wake up in the middle of the night and can remember all the details of the dream . In the case of sleep terrors, a patient remains asleep the whole night.

Verified By Dr Yeshwanth Paidimarri
MD(General Medicine), DM(Neurology),SCE (UK) Neurology,
Consultant Neurologist,
Apollo Hospitals, Jubilee Hills, Hyderabad

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