Nightmares in which traumatic events are re-experienced reportedly occur frequently in combat veterans with chronic post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), although disturbing dreams also have been described in other traumatized populations. We studied dream descriptions of subjects exposed to Hurricane Andrew, and assessed whether disturbing dreams, either those that did or those that did not represent the trauma, were associated with PTSD. Subjects who were free of a psychiatric disorder in the 6 months prior to the hurricane (N=59) were recruited from the area most heavily damaged. Structured evaluations of psychiatric morbidity and self-report questionnaires regarding sleep quality and dream content were completed 6-12 months following the hurricane. Of the 59 subjects, 32 described dreams. Only five of the dream reports were threatening or disturbing and featured content related to the hurricane, and all of these were reported by subjects with PTSD. Frequencies of other dream categories did not differ significantly between subjects with and without PTSD. Thus, while event-related nightmares following Hurricane Andrew were not reported very frequently, they appeared to be specific to PTSD.
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
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