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When do (bad) dreams become nightmares?

siniang

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I've been pondering about this for a while. I remember during my initial assessment with T, one of the question was whether I have nightmares. And I don't actually really know how to answer this question. Particularly after having spent so much time here on the forum and reading other's experiences with nightmares.

I have bad dreams. Not nightly. But consistently enough. By usual accounts, the thematics would probably qualify as nightmare stuff. Danger. Death. Being shot at. Wild animals hunting me, car and plane crashes, trauma-themes, ....

I don't have physical reactions. No sweating. No trashing around. No jolting awake. No screaming.

I know I feel fear during those "nightmares". But upon waking, they usually don't leave me feeling derailed. They feel mostly like any other dream - the only difference is that I tend to remember my "nightmares" longer than my normal dreams, which I usually forget within minutes of waking.

Maybe I have a weird image of what are nightmares, thanks to media probably but also reading on it from others' accounts, but they just don't register as nightmares for me. Not "bad" enough.

What makes a nightmare a nightmare?
 
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Ronin

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#3
<grin> I go by precisely what you mention, @siniang...

Bad dreams don't derail to the depth nightmares do.

Doesn't have to be bad ones tho.
Some of my waking dreams about utterly ordinary things (blue camo shirt and a toothbrush and a rice bowl? Come on!) were the worst & most terrifying things I had for a while, took months to really shake.
 
#4
I go by the accompanying feelings. I’ve had dreams with what would be nightmare content but was kinda numb throughout/didn’t bother me. But then I’ll have ones where the content is strange but the feeling from it is sheer terror/panic/stays with me. It doesn’t have to wake me up for me to count it but most do. I never wake up like the movies though with the whole sweating and screaming theatrics.
 
#5
I was just going to say I only count the ones that disturb...that cross over to the physical, racing heart, confusion, adrenaline stuff. But i guess nightmares could come without the physical response.
 

siniang

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Bad dreams don't derail to the depth nightmares do.
Then I don't think I've had a nightmare...like...ever?

I still remember a dream that I consider a nightmare from when I was a kid. Vividly so. Even after 25 years it makes me uneasy. But I also remember that even at the time it didn't...derail me... it upset me. Yes. It scared me (heck, I was a kid that dreamed about their mother dying). But I don't think it completely freaked me out to a point that I was derailed for a prolonged period of time.

But then...family of not showing emotions...internalizing....huh. I don't think I talked about this dream with anyone close, ever?

But then I’ll have ones where the content is strange but the feeling from it is sheer terror/panic/stays with me. It doesn’t have to wake me up for me to count it but most do.
This I can relate to. I definitely have dreams with feelings of sheer terror/panic/fear. These feelings usually linger somewhat upon waking. Not to the same magnitude, not even close, but they linger. Sometimes just a short while, sometimes a little longer.

I wonder whether I'm just that good at compartmentalizing that I push the associated feelings away immediately upon waking? And that it means something for <me> that I pretty much never remember my normal dreams, but can recount bad dreams/nightmares weeks, months, even years later?

Just thinking out loud.
 
#7
I would count those as nightmares personally. I think once we wake up we can push the intensity of the feelings aside a bit easier because then we can use a different part of the brain (or whatever) to rationalize and dissect the dream.

@Ronin I’m curious on the derailment comment earlier- what constitutes derailment exactly? Not challenging, just genuinely curious what’s quantified as derailment.

My version of derailment is I’ve had some nightmares that really stick with me and I lose sleep, I have a really hard time getting grounded, and I just keep replaying the feelings and images all day. But it never lasts more than that day and it’s pretty rare for me to not be able to ground. But I still consider dreams to be nightmares even if they don’t affect me quite that hard.
 
#8
Until prazosin I had quite a few that would keep me awake. Generally involving someone close being killed or myself being killed or fighting. Had several where I would call the person in the middle of the night to make sure it was a dream and they answered their phone. Now my dog wakes me up when having one but with the meds I seldom even remember it and can go right back to sleep most times. Amazing what just adding the low dose blood pressure med made. It’s a wonderful side effect.
 

Ronin

MyPTSD Pro
#9
@Annalyn78, I go with derailment = disrupts my day or emotional regulation for it. ;) Essentially what you described in your next paragraph.

It can be however bad thing but if I can go about my day as usual after, it's a non issue. If it keeps bugging me or worse, how I act and energy levels and concentration get affected by it negatively, it's another issue.
 
#10
I think bad dreams become nightmares when you decide that they are. Personally, I've never had a nightmare. An assortment of bad dreams. Graphic, gory, "I think I'll quit sleeping forever" bad dreams, but I refuse to have nightmares. LOL Kind of stupid, I suppose, but I chose not to define any of them as "nightmares". When you think about it, what's in a name, anyway?
 
#11
I took awareness into my dream and prevent Nightmare from happening. I take ownership of my dream, and change my dream when nightmare approaching. Few year ago I planted inception in my dream where I am cocky person who take on fight and kill anything bad. Now a day I fly in my dream. I believe dream can be a hypnosis therapy like correcting your pass, kill your enemies, kill your abusers, do as you please in your dream. I wonder if people here have taken dream as an advantage.
 
#12
I took awareness into my dream and prevent Nightmare from happening. I take ownership of my dream, and change my dream when nightmare approaching. Few year ago I planted inception in my dream where I am cocky person who take on fight and kill anything bad. Now a day I fly in my dream. I believe dream can be a hypnosis therapy like correcting your pass, kill your enemies, kill your abusers, do as you please in your dream. I wonder if people here have taken dream as an advantage.
I have attempted lucid dreaming so many times but can’t seem to make it happen. How do you make it work?
 
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