Dreams in the Acute Aftermath of Trauma and Their Relationship to PTSD

Thomas A. Mellman, Daniella David, Victoria Bustamante, Joseph Torres, Ana Fins

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

99 Scopus citations


Dreams following trauma have been suggested to aid emotional adaptation, yet trauma-related nightmares are a diagnostic symptom of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). There is little published data relating dreams to PTSD soon after trauma. We assessed dreams and PTSD in 60 injured patients after life-threatening events and obtained follow-up assessments in 39 of these participants 6 weeks later. Ten of 21 dream reports from morning diaries were rated and described as similar to the recent traumatic event. The participants reporting these distressing "trauma dreams" had more severe concurrent PTSD symptoms than those reporting other categories of dreams and had more severe initial and follow-up PTSD than those without dream recall. These findings along with our preliminary longitudinal observations relating changes in dream patterns to outcome, suggest a relationship of dream characteristics and early adaptive versus maladaptive patterns of processing traumatic memory.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)241-247
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Traumatic Stress
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2001


  • Dreams
  • Nightmares
  • PTSD

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Psychology(all)
  • Clinical Psychology


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