Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Nightmare Disorder

I suffer from a rare problem called Nightmare Disorder. Only 1 - 2% of the population has it: Leave it to me to be different.

It's a horrifically unpleasant ailment that is sometimes associated with other physical or mental illnesses which, thankfully, I don't have. I haven't written about Nightmare Disorder before, because I have lived with it all of my life and therefore it seems normal to me. I'm sure when you're done reading about it, you'll be thankful that it's not normal for you.

Remember the Freddy Krueger series? He always came to people in vivid nightmares and killed them in their sleep. Well, I often have those types of nightmares but, unlike Freddy's victims, I survive to see each morning.

If they could package my nightmares, George Romero would be jealous. If I wanted to be a horror writer, I could make a fortune. I've read Stephen King and Dean Koontz's novels and find them to be merely childplay (I find Koontz's novels to be relaxing, in fact). But I've hesitated to try my hand at the genre, for fear that it would make my nightmares even worse. After all, what I can dream up is so much scarier than what they've ever written.

What's particular to the Nightmare Disorder is that you have dreams like this very frequently. I have them every night.

I've had terrible nightmares for as long as I can remember. I recall being very young and believing myself to be awake, watching ravenous wolves leaping about in my bedroom.

I was once very sick, and during a fitful night, I dreamed my mother had come to the door of my bedroom. She turned on the hall light, the light streaming from behind her. She stood in the doorway, almost looking like an angel, wearing a floorlength nightgown. Then she slowly smiled at me, revealing fangs which dripped blood. I still can see every detail, including the drop of blood on her chin and the light winking off her fangs.

When I grew older and was married and in college, I passed into a second stage where I would wake up in a panic, run to the bathroom, and vomit continually until I was sedated. After a few years of this, I was able to psych myself out of growing so upset, but it still occasionally happened (although I haven't had a bout in years now).

No one really knows what causes Nightmare Disorder. Various suggestions abound. At times it's been linked to Borderline Personality Disorders (which I don't have), Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (nope), heredity (possibly), and having a high IQ and highly artistic and sensitive nature (which I do have).

There is no known cure. Usually psychiatric treatment is recommended, so that the sufferer can get to the heart of their problems and find ways to solve them in a healthy manner. This doesn't work for me: I know what stresses me, I know how to solve it, but the nightmares continue with or without stressors.

The only other option is possibly anti-anxiety medications. But why should someone who is otherwise healthy (and non-anxious by day) take any additional medications if they can soldier through the ailment?

So, I persist in dealing with the regular nightmares.

Perhaps if they had suddenly sprung upon me, I would have sought treatment actively. But they've been a part of my life for so long that I've never sensed the urgency. Lately they've been getting worse, so I'm beginning to rethink my options even though I've avoided adding another bottle to the medicine cabinet.


Anonymous said...

My fiance has PTS from being deployed to Bosnia, he saw some truly horrific stuff there. So we definitely have bad nights here and there but he tends to handle it really well. I don't think there will really ever be anything that can help him.


Saur♥Kraut said...

Ange, They're both very similar. PTS is a tough one - and you're right, there isn't much that can help. Counseling helps a little, but it's amazing how much your mind wishes to torment you. :P

Bee Repartee said...


I've suffered from the same thing for almost two years and it stopped about a year ago. My only change was reading the Bible right before bed and praying that God would protect my mind while dreaming. It sounds so easy but sometimes solutions are the most simple.

Uncle Joe said...

My mom suffers from Sleep Paralysis. I've had a few episodes in my life but not as much as her.
She is truly tormented by this.With sleep paralysis you are unable to move while strange things are happening.
I was diagnosed with PostTSD after I almost died 4 years ago. I'm dealing with that much better.

I'm wondering about my youngest daughter. She has vivid nightmares where she yells and kicks and hits in bed. Last night was the worst yet. She was almost screaming "No, I won't. NONONONONO I won't do it!!She was shaking her head vigorously and kicking in the air.
I went to calm her last night and she doesn't remember the dream but vaguely remembers me waking her up to talk to her.
The mind is SOOOO strange.
I tend to think there is a something of a spiritual nature going on, but that's just me.

Anonymous said...

Being the guy I am I'm choking back the desire to give you advice.

I guess if you are used to it and you can come to grips with it, then that's ok. Terrible visions though. It's like that piece of your brain just lets it all go at night.

I'm wondering if hypnosis would change things.


Just Another Beggar said...

Saur dear! I'm sorry you are suffering so! I'll be sending some prayer cover your way from up here in Wisconsin! God bless, li'l sister!

The Undergroundlogician

Anonymous said...

I have weird dreams all the time, and dreams of trying to kill bad people/demons etc, and they always come back to life. If that would get me an rx for xanax, I think I'd go for it

Saur♥Kraut said...

Doozie, I think that's where I may be headed. I'm not surprised you get those kind of dreams - we have similar personalities and you're under a great deal of stress.

Underground, thank you SO very much, my dear friend.

Edge, I tried hypnosis. I can't be hypnotized. I will probably try medication, for the first time in my life.

Uncle Joe, I didn't realize how close you'd come to dying. I almost died in 1996 (another story for another time). But I've had the nightmares for as long as I can remember (age 4/5).

If your daughter doesn't remember the nightmares, she's having night terrors. Those are more common among young people. Google it to learn more about it.

Bee, I know who you are, and I respect you. But no matter how much praying that *I* have done, it has never gotten any better. And I've been struggling w/ this since I was 4-5 y.o. (or earlier - that's just my earliest recollection). So, my belief is that it's something going wanky in the electrical wiring upstairs. :P Other than that, I'm highly functional, however - and I'm very thankful for that.

Groovy Mom said...

That sounds horrific. I have occasional nightmares, and occasionally I wake up screaming, believing someone or something is standing over me in my bedroom. It doesn't happen frequently enough for me to consider medication for it, but if it did I think I'd be thinking about it seriously. When it does happen it makes me not want to go to sleep at night at all.

Just Another Beggar said...


I finally did it. I posted something. Can you believe it? I can't. And, it's not necessarily connected to the 2008 election. Phew! My mind is still intact for now.


Jungle Mom said...

That sounds very difficult to deal with! I really feel for you. You will know when you need more help.
My doctor recently wanted to put me on a mild anti depressant. I am a very optimistic person and do not have problems with depression. I do have problems with insomnia and when I realized I haven't slept well for 15 made me depressed! So I am taking the prescription.Waiting to see if it helps...

Three Score and Ten or more said...

I went through that a lot as a kid, but have graduated to dreams that are so interesting I really hate to wake up. Last night I had my first dream that had a narrator. No nasties though. (How would I know, I really find it irritating that ten minutes after I awaken I can't remember what I was dreaming about. Maybe your cure is to get to be over seventy.

I am not trying to be light about something that is serious- - well, I guess I am, but that doesn't mean I don't recognize the problem and identify with your frustration.

By the way, I will try to get a brining recipe up sometime next week when I have recovered from my all night tax session (I am just winding down.)

The Lazy Iguana said...

I have strange dreams often. Sometimes they are "bad" but mostly just "annoying".

Like for example, I can only move slowly. No matter how much effort I exert, I can only walk in slow motion. And for some reason instead of a car I have a board with wheels that I lay on and propel using my arms???? What the crap is up with that?!?!?!? Oh yea I always have someplace to go. I have no idea where. But I can only move slowly and get VERY pissed off about it.

I blame that one on too much beer.

And then there is the dream where my teeth fall out, and grow back again. I can spit teeth all over the place and never run out. It is like some sort of useless super power or something.

I have no idea what to blame that one on.

There are others too, which I can either not remember very well (I forget the details minutes after waking up and never write anything down out of laziness). But the sense of being pissed off is there. Sort of.

And then on the sailboat this past weekend, there was the dream I was falling off the hard top I was sleeping on. Maybe because the boat was rocking? Who knows.

The really strange thing is that I am half awake and half asleep. Or something. Enough of my brain is "awake" so I know I am in fact dreaming and none of it is real. But I can not seem to direct the dream anywhere. I just know somehow I am dreaming, and therefore there is no reason to worry about why my teeth fall out and grow back all snaggly and whatever.

It is all strange. During the dream I know I am dreaming. But everyone says you are not supposed to know it is a dream. So therefore I am not dreaming and I really do get around town on a mechanic creeper???? On the expressway? Without getting squished? No - clearly this is not happening. So it is a dream. Where I know I am dreaming.

Hope you can find a solution to your problem.

And yes, I used to wake up then get up to see if I can still move around at normal speed and that I have all my teeth and whatever else I thought I needed to check on. Not anymore. I just wake up, get annoyed I am awake, then go back to sleep. Then when I really have to wake up it is REALLY hard because it is like I only had two or three hours of sleep.

Beaver said...

Eeeeeew. Definitely thankful - I very rarely remember any dreams at all. I turn into a log when I go to bed and need to be rolled out and threatened to be burned every morning in order to morph back into a human being.

Sympathies, lots of good thoughts etc.


Tea & Margaritas in My Garden said...

Oh Saur..... how horrible that must be for you!
I seem to remember reading somewhere that Stephen King had frightening nightmares, and so wrote, although I`m not sure if he suffers from the same or not as you.
If you ever have enough time and solitude, maybe it would be good therapy to write about them. Maybe it would release them from your subconscious somehow...


daveawayfromhome said...

Wow, that sounds bad. I myself have what I call "real estate dreams", where the action (whatever it may be) happens at some wonderful or interesting (and extremely detailed) new abode that I've recently moved/am moving into. This includes monster dreams.
I rarely have nightmares anymore since I discovered that thinking about things that worry me before I go to sleep tends to get rid of them. I suspect your problem is bigger than that.
You're probably going to be stuck with soldiering it out. It's a good thing that you're a rational-minded person.

Jenn said...

Sorry to hear about your problem!

Since I'm on an SSRI I have very vivid and crazy dreams. The weird thing is that sometimes the scary ones don't scare me... they just "are"... like dreams about death and decapitation, severed human body parts. I took Klonopin at night for a while, and the sleep was amazing. At some point you've gotta give in if you can't take it anymore.

Caldaan said...


Your situation sounds a bit like mine. In fact my wife kept trying to get me to seek help because she was sure they were some sort of repressed memory or something. But the unfortunate part of nightmare disorder is there is no other underlying psychological problem.

I can say that for me personally eventually it became difficult for me to get a good nights sleep, which led to extreme anxiety problems, so I did eventually seek help.

Two drugs seem to work well for me anyway.

1) Seroquel(which is an atypical antipsychotic) in decent enough doses, once you get accustomed to the sedation effect and are on the right dose you simply no longer dream. Normally the doses needed are much smaller than someone would take for pschizophrenia or bipolar manic episodes.

2) Klonopin. I've got to say klonpin has been pretty amazing for me. I still do dream but rarely of anything bad, and while the drug doesn't sedate me at all, I sleep like a baby when I decided to go to bed.

You asked the question why should you take something that is anti-anxiety when for all other purposes you are fine. At the same time why should you endure the dreams, long term the are detrimental to your physical health do to poor sleep.

Also I;ve been on xanax, ativan, and vallium, and for some reason the klonopin just fits in with my brain chemistry and just makes everything normal...

Everyone is different, but should you ever decide to try giving up on the nightmares, the right drug, or combination of drugs should make the nightmares go away and leave you feeling pretty much the same otherwise, regaurdless of what they might do to someone else.

YaSs said...

Something that almost everyone does if they have problems related to anxiety and panic is to try to uncover their own panic attacks causes. And it's understandable. Panic attacks are truly horrific, and definitely the worst part about having any form of anxiety or panic disorder.

Anonymous said...

I have a 17 yr old friend tgat says that he has a nightmare every single time that he sleeps. He also said that he's had the same one 27 times in a row, and i'm sure he had it again today. He says only music can help to make the nightmares only a little better. He doesnt wake up anymore because he's so used to it, according to him. It pains me to see him suffering so much. Is there anything i can do to help him??

Raghavendra t said...

My brother suffered from sleep disorder and had gone through some medications.He is now alright if u want any information on
sleep disorders Nightmare .