May 27, 2024

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Nightmares: this is what people are most often afraid of – 10 common dreams (video)

What do people see in nightmares? Scientists managed to find out this and describe the 10 most common scary dreams. It is interesting that “night horror stories” are similar for different people, which is due to the identity of the existing problems.

Dream Exploration

What people see in their dreams, Michael Schroedl, head of the sleep laboratory at the Central Institute of Mental Health in Mannheim, Germany, is convinced that these are signals from our brain. Deciphering dreams tells Insider, scientists present their interpretation. Schroedl and his colleague analyzed 1,200 nightmares (!), divided them into themes and explained what a particular nightmare means. The results of their work published National Center for Biotechnology Information.

Failure and helplessness

Night terrors associated with helplessness were observed in 18% of study participants. Such dreams appear due to a person’s fears about success in life: from failure to achieve a goal to being late. For example, 3% of such dreams are related to failing an exam, and Schroedl explains:

“Dreams about exams may indicate that you are unsure of your ability to perform at work or at home, or that you are constantly worried about an alarming event.”

Fights and aggression

The second most common occurrence is nightmares about physical aggression. In a dream, the sleeper is subjected to a brutal attack, fights, or watches the stormy “showdown” of other people. The expert says such nightmares indicate vulnerability to criticism, social anxiety or a literal fear of violence.


Approximately 15% of the predominantly male participants report nightmares of drowning, falls, accidents and other emergencies. These dreams signal helplessness, fear of death, a feeling of loss of control by the sleeper. As a rule, such a person is afraid of heights or water, or driving fast. Schroedl says:

“If you are a filmmaker and you need to portray a situation of complete helplessness, then the accident situation can be one of them. In such a dream, the only thing you know is that you will fall and die.”

He explained that such accident dreams may be the brain’s attempt to dramatically express how we feel about our own mortality, abilities, or health.

The pursuit

This nightmare is familiar to many – you may be pursued by a person whom you do not see. Schroedl says that in a dream with a similar scenario, a person is afraid to run from something that, in his opinion, is getting closer. Experiencing fear and running away from what causes it is avoidance behavior. Scientists believe that people who see such a dream are worried because of what they are afraid of and avoid.

Illness, suffering and death

At least half of the participants in the study had dreams related to health and death. They have watched themselves or a loved one fall ill, suffer from it, or die. These visions are complex and can mean a lot – depending on what the person is facing in reality. They can be a symbol of fear of serious illness and death, or a feeling of loss of control over one’s well-being, or a way to cope with grief.

Disagreements, conflicts, disputes

Dreaming about disagreements is a sign of social anxiety. Such dreams rank sixth in frequency among nightmares. In them, the dreamer witnesses a verbal conflict. Such dreams can be a symbol of a certain social anxiety that a person experiences in relation to personal relationships.


Fear of the unknown – this is evidenced by nightmares filled with anxiety and fear. The reason for these feelings is unclear, but the dream indicates fear of the unknown. Sometimes people dream that they forgot something very important, but… they don’t remember what it was. Participants in Schroedel’s study reported feeling like they knew something was wrong but didn’t know what, which made them even more anxious.


Floods, fires, radiation – all this in a dream can mean fears about the future, says Corelli from Stanford University. It all depends on whether a person perceives changes in life as positive or negative.

The feeling of evil standing nearby

People often dream of the presence of evil standing next to them during daily activities or when they sleep. There is an eerie feeling that there is a demon, ghost, alien, etc. nearby. Such a nightmare is when the dreamer has a grudge against someone and understands that the offender is somewhere nearby.

Often the heroes of such dreams are heroes seen in horror films. Probably, experts say, the brain uses familiar images to display fear.

Contracting an infection

Invasion in a dream, that is, the penetration of parasites into the body, is a fear of disease or rodents. Typically, a person who has such nightmares is terribly afraid of, for example, rats and mice, says Schroedl. Such dreams may indicate feelings of insecurity and danger in your own home.

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