Having vivid dreams? COVID-19 anxiety may be to blame - GulfToday

Having vivid dreams? COVID-19 anxiety may be to blame

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All around the world, people have reported having frequent, vivid and often disturbing dreams inspired by their anxieties about COVID-19. Twitter has been abuzz with the phrases #coviddreams or #coronadreams. Thousands of celebrities, athletes, health care workers and everyday folks have shared their strange and puzzling pandemic-fuelled dreams.

Estela Bobadilla, a San Diego psychotherapist who specialises in dream analysis, said she noticed an immediate uptick in patients reporting coronavirus-related dreams after the stay-at-home orders began two months ago.

To respond to the sudden need, she set aside Sunday appointments just for first responders and offers free appointments to people who have lost their jobs during the pandemic.


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A longtime marriage and family therapist, Bobadilla is a union, or Jungian, analyst who believes that people’s dreams deliver messages and symbols from the unconscious mind. In times of great upheaval like wars or pandemics, people suppress their anxieties in order to carry on with their daily lives. But those thoughts rest like seeds in the unconscious mind where they “grow like little plants, always seeking the light” in dreams.

One couple who are first responders came to Bobadilla for counselling after they both experienced dreams about their child being in danger. They had sent their child to live with family during quarantine to avoid the chance of infection and their fears were showing up in their dreams.

“A lot of the dreams people are having are about COVID-19. They’re scared,” Bobadilla said. “Then we figure out it’s their inner child that’s in danger.”

The phenomenon of corona dreams has become so universal that Harvard University is conducting a large-scale survey on pandemic dreams. Deirdre Barrett, an assistant professor of psychology in the psychiatry department at Harvard Medical School, has gathered responses on more than 6,000 dreams.

In an interview for The Harvard Gazette, Barrett said she has seen a large number of responses from people who dream of getting COVID-19. She also has seen “dozens and dozens and dozens” of dream stories where people were attacked by bugs, cockroaches, worms, grasshoppers and bed bugs, all of which likely represent the virus.

Ryan Fahey said he’s been troubled lately by a recurring nightmare where either ninjas are chasing him or some invisible, ominous presence is coming toward him. Sometimes the dreams are so bad, he leaps out of bed and runs into the closet before he’s fully awake.

Fahey, 40, has been working long hours lately as the digital marketing director for Aya Healthcare in San Diego, which is now sending traveling nurses to hospitals around the country dealing with COVID-19 cases.

But Bobadilla said dreams about approaching negative forces aren’t necessarily pandemic-related. They can be about anxiety when someone either changes careers, finishes college or reaches middle age and is questioning who they are and where they’re going.

Alexis Apostolidis works for a special events entertainment company in San Diego. All of her company’s jobs were cancelled when the pandemic began. After that, she began having dreams about President Donald Trump showing up at a meticulously planned event and causing chaos.

Bobadilla said Trump is a frequent figure in people’s dreams. As president, he symbolically represents the ultimate authority figure overseeing the ruling principles that guide our lives. But normal processes have broken down during the pandemic and Trump’s response to the crisis may have inspired Apostolidis’ dreams, she said.

Susan Farese, a retired nurse who now runs a communications firm in San Diego, said when the pandemic began she had dreams about how she would organise her home if family members contracted the virus. She also had dreams about placing a clock on the wall in her home.

Bobadilla said clocks in dreams often represent cycles of life, meaning births, deaths, marriages and divorces. After hearing Bobadilla’s analysis, Farese said it made sense, because she has lost four family members in the past years and another is fighting stage 4 cancer.

Most of the dreams that people have are not scary and are quickly forgotten. But when clients are troubled by a recurring scary dream, she tells them the best way to stop it from coming back is to write it down after they wake up. That sends the unconscious a signal that its message has been received.

“That would be the equivalent of looking through a peephole,” she said, “and usually the unconscious will back off.”

Tribune News Service

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