Strange Dreams and Finding Meaning in Them

September 1, 2019 Morgan Meredith

People who have strange dreams can worry that strange dreams and mental health are related, when in fact they may not be. Strange dreams happen for neurotypical people as well as those with mental illness, and these dreams often mean nothing at all. 

Finding Meaning in Strange Dreams

For centuries, humans have sought to find meaning in dreams. Some dreams were considered omens and caused people to make life-altering decisions. Many schools of thought regarding dream significance exist today, and a quick Internet search can yield dozens of interpretations of the same dream elements. 

However, this constant searching for the meaning of a strange dream can cause more anxiety than relief. If you're already anxiety-prone, simply allowing your dreams to occur without placing meaning on them can allow you to relax instead. 

Your Strange Dream May Be Meaningless

Though these interpretations of strange dreams have arisen from many traditions, your odd dream may mean nothing at all. For example, if you’ve been absorbing violent media, whether true current events or fiction, you may experience violent dreams or nightmares. Dreams can also be your mind simply flushing out negativity in a simple and direct way. Considering dreams in this way can turn your interpretation from a negative one where you wonder what's wrong to a positive one where you’re grateful the dream expressed that negativity or worry.

If you feel you must find a reason for your strange dreams, look for the simplest explanation rather than connecting the dreams to any meaning about yourself and your mental health. 

Seeking a Natural Explanation for Your Strange Dream

Looking for a more natural explanation of a strange dream can provide some relief. If you’ve eaten or had an alcoholic drink close to bedtime, you may have more intense dreams as your body digests the food and chemicals contained in those substances. Likewise, consider whether you’ve had a change in your normal caffeine intake or the time at which you consume your caffeine. 

Your dreams may become more or less intense if you’ve recently changed your sleep schedule or added or removed a nap. Any change to your brain’s chemistry, such as a change in psychiatric medication, may be the culprit. Rest assured that unusual dreams may not be an indication that your medication is not a good fit, and these dreams may fade away with other side effects that occur with changing medication. 

If you can end the search for meaning in or reasons for your strange dreams altogether, and simply see them as physical reactions to changes in your environment or a natural flushing of emotions, you can separate strange dreams from mental health. 

APA Reference
Meredith, M. (2019, September 1). Strange Dreams and Finding Meaning in Them, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 12 from

Author: Morgan Meredith

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September, 6 2019 at 10:07 pm

I came to read hoping to find some knowledge with how to deal with intrusive dreams, but I suppose I assumed "strange" meant "atypical," and not just a single weird REM cycle. I wake up to my abusers voice screaming at me almost nightly, and was diagnosed with Complex PTSD after escaping his circus of chaos. There is some evidence intrusive dreams are a product of brain health and result from trauma. I'm not upset the article wasn't what I wanted, but I suppose I'm commenting because the dreams absolutely destroy my hope for a calm day, and I can't find anything anywhere about how to control, suppress, or train them out. It's been 2 years and they're not going away. I've tried every "natural" supplement/cure, every folk wisdom, done endless hours of as-good-as-useless therapy, and been prescribed sedatives and anti-depressants/anxiety medications. Nothing touches them. I just wish someone could help.

September, 7 2019 at 11:46 am

Hi KC,
I'm so sorry to hear about your abuse, and that my article was disappointing for you. My original title for the article was "Finding Meaning in Strange Dreams", which may have given you a better idea of what would come inside the article, vs. *dealing with the impact of strange dreams on your mental health*, which it sounds like you were looking for. I'm so sorry that this article was a disappointment for you; unfortunately I don't have any experience with what you have to live through, and addressing that scenario wasn't the intent of what I wrote. And in your case, it sounds like those intrusive and terrifying nightmares are not just strange dreams, but symptoms of your PTSD.
I'm so glad you got out of your abuser's cycle and that you were able to seek treatment. I don't have any sort of help to be able to offer you, but I am thinking of you and I see your desperation. I value your ability to share it publicly here.
You likely have already seen this, but here's the Healthyplace community PTSD and Stress Disorders:

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