Post-traumatic Nightmares

Dreamer: Shelly, 33, American

Three years ago I was in a diving accident, and I actually lost most of my hearing in my left ear after being hit by a wave. For about six months afterwards, I had recurring dreams of tsunami - obviously rooting from actual experience. But last night, three years later, it happened again. In my dream this time, I was forewarned by something not to go near the ocean. I was house-sitting for my uncle, and after he came home, my cousin and I decided to take a drive. She was driving; it was her car. We were talking as we drove down a rather steep hill, through a lush, green field, and finally to a beach. I barely had time to remember the forewarning when a distant wave began growing larger and larger. We were in awe at first, then frozen with horror as a wall of water became the only thing we could see in front of us. As the wave broke and tore towards us with furious force, I noticed the car windows were open and felt panic. Then I woke up.

Mr. Hagen's Reply: Post-traumatic Nightmares

Your dream seems like ones that are common to motor vehicle accident victims; however in your case it was caused by diving accident which is rarer. These types of dreams are nightmares, more precisely, post-traumatic nightmares.

Do you have any flashbacks of the accident during the day? I believe that you may be in need of some counseling for what is termed post-traumatic stress. The way that this problem is dealt with is primarily through what is known as a "Critical Incident Stress Defusing Session". The best way to start would be to consult your family physician and discuss your symptoms, such as nightmares or night-terrors.

Here is an interesting website that discusses Post-traumatic nightmares and the counseling process.

Some literature that might be of interest includes:

  • D. Barrett, "Trauma and Dreams"
  • E. Hartmann, "The nightmare: the psychology and biology of terrifying dreams"
  • J.T. Mitchell & G.S. Everly, "Critical incident stress debriefing: An operations manual for the prevention of trauma among emergency service and disaster workers"
  • B.A. van der Kolk, A.C. McFarlane & L. Weisaeth, "Traumatic stress: The effects of overwhelming experience on mind, body, and society"

Hope these thoughts are of help and provide some insight,
Mark H.

All material Copyright 2006 International Institute for Dream Research. All rights reserved.