Nightmares are linked to suicidal behaviour in people suffering post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), new research finds.
Around 80% of people who suffer from PTSD experience nightmares.
The study found that in those who were experiencing nightmares, 62% had suicidal thoughts, plans or attempts.
Of those not experiencing nightmares only 20% had suicidal ideation.
The researchers found that nightmares tended to encourage specific types of negative thoughts including:
- and hopelessness.
All of these fed into suicidal thoughts and behaviour.
Dr Donna L. Littlewood, the study’s first author, said:
“PTSD increases the risk of suicidal thoughts and behavior, and our study shows that nightmares, a hallmark symptom of PTSD, may be an important treatment target to reduce suicide risk.
This study emphasizes the importance of specifically assessing and targeting nightmares within those individuals experiencing PTSD.
In addition, monitoring and targeting levels of negative cognitive appraisals such as defeat, entrapment, and hopelessness, may reduce suicidal thoughts and behaviors.”
The study involved 91 people suffering from PTSD.
The study was published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine (Littlewood et al., 2016).
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Nightmare image from Shutterstock