Behavioral Effects of Nightmares and Their Correlations to Personality Patterns

Abstract

Factors affecting or inducing nightmares have been investigated repeatedly. However, little research is carried out on the behavioral consequences of nightmares. The present study thus served to investigate behavioral effects of nightmares in correlation to personality variables. 41 non-clinical participants, who suffer from about 2 nightmares per month recorded their dreams and nightmares over a 4-week period. A nightmare was defined as a dream that frightens the dreamer and could be recalled in detail on awakening. Anxiety and mood were monitored every morning. All nightmares and their behavioral consequences were noted on a questionnaire. Personality traits and life events were assessed at the beginning of the investigation. 100 nightmares were reported by the subjects over the 4-week period (range: 0–8). Following a nightmare, the subjects were significantly more anxious and were of a less stable mental condition compared to nights without nightmares. Additionally, nightmares induced physical complaints. This was considered to be an indicator that something was wrong in their lives and induced them to solve personal problems. The behavioral effects were most pronounced in subjects scoring high on neuroticism and on the number of physical complaints and low on achievement orientation and openness. The results suggest that sufferers of nightmares intend to change their lives, especially those with a neurotic-like personality.

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Köthe, M., Pietrowsky, R. Behavioral Effects of Nightmares and Their Correlations to Personality Patterns. Dreaming 11, 43–52 (2001). https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1009468517557

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  • nightmares
  • personality
  • live events
  • mood
  • behavior