Over the centuries, dreams have been the topic of countless studies, theologies, and religions. Some people say that dreams reflect aspects of someone’s life, others say that dreams are nothing more than visions created by the mind using known people, places, and things. However, one thing is sure; traumatic experiences can alter the dreams of an injured person.
Theories About Traumatic Dreams
There are some suggestions as to why people dream about trauma. Some researchers believe that dreaming about a trauma is, in and of itself, nothing more than a harmful byproduct of brain trauma. As traumatic experiences can alter the brain’s chemical makeup, dreaming about the trauma is a consequence of the brain’s physical change. However, other researchers suggest a reason that fits well with what we know about psychology.
One of the core beliefs as to why people dream about trauma stems from the way humans process information. Every day, the brain deciphers thousands of stimuli in the form of sights, smells, sounds, tastes, and touches. Once these stimuli are “decoded,” they are then organized by the brain into various categories. These categories help us block out things we know we don’t need to pay attention to (the sound of a fan, the feel of a keyboard, even the sight of someone’s nose!) and help us concentrate on things that do need our attention. However, trauma impacts this process in a mighty way.
Trauma & Decoding
When someone suffers a trauma, the brain will often “overload” with information. As a traumatic experience unfolds, the brain doesn’t know what to do with the current scenario, and can “shutdown.”
Symptoms of shutdown include:
- Failure to remember the traumatic event
- Post-accident panic when hearing or smelling stimuli associated with the experience
- Fear of anything associated with the experience
While the brain may have “shutdown” during the experience, it still stores the information of the incident. However, this information has yet to be processed, and the brain must find a way to process the accident at some point.
Therefore, dreams about a traumatic experience may be the brain’s way of sorting out the information that has yet to be categorized. If this is the case, then traumatic dreams are the brain’s attempts to “repair” and “decongest” itself from the incident in question.
As a personal injury firm that works with people who suffer traumatic car accidents, medical malpractice, and sexual abuse cases, we hope this blog helps people see that nightmares concerning their trauma could be a part (albeit a hard one) of their road to a full recovery.