If you have bad dreams on the regular, going to bed at night might feel like you're stuck in A Nightmare On Elm Street. Some common dreams caused by fear are actually a reflection of what you're subconsciously afraid of IRL. The good news, however, is that bad dreams probably aren't going to kill you like in the aforementioned horror film — but they are probably trying to get your attention. Getting to the root of your anxieties and fears while you're awake could help you sleep more peacefully at night. According to the Sleep Matters Club, bad dreams aren't literal and usually point to another fear entirely. For example, dreaming that your teeth are falling out doesn't mean that you're afraid of the dentist (though I totally am).
This notion is based in neurologist and founder of psychoanalysis Sigmund Freud's theory about dreams. "Even when our whole mind is filled with one subject, when our hearts are rent by bitter grief, or when some task has been taxing our mental capacity to the utmost, the dream either gives us something entirely alien, or it selects for its combinations only a few elements of reality; or it merely enters into the key of our mood, and symbolizes reality," German physiologist Karl Friedrich Burdach is quoted as saying in Freud's The Interpretation of Dreams.
If you've wondering what common dreams are caused by waking fear, and what the heck those disturbing dreams mean, here are some of the most common fear-based dreams decoded.
1. Fear Of Rejection Prompts Dreams Of Losing Your Teeth
I've had multiple dreams about losing my teeth over the years, and it turns out that this dream really has nothing to do with anxiety over your chompers. According to the Sleep Matters Club, dreaming that your teeth are falling out actually signals that you fear rejection and feel powerless IRL. "As teeth are used to bite, tear, and chew, dreams about losing your teeth can stem from a sense of powerless, which means you could be experiencing self-confidence issues."
2. Stress & Denial Are Behind Dreams Of Being Chased
Being chased in a dream doesn't necessarily mean that you're afraid someone is after you IRL. "Chase dreams often result from feelings of general anxiety, even paranoia, experienced in waking hours," the Psychic Library noted. "Also, feeling overstretched at work or pressures in a relationship can trigger this type of dream. It can even represent that you are having trouble dealing with reality or being in denial about something." So, if your dreams often include you running away, it might be time to examine what you're trying to avoid in your life.
3. Can't Find A Toilet In Your Dreams? You're Afraid To Express Yourself
There are few things worse in life than having to use the bathroom bad AF but not being able to find one. If your dreams regularly include toilet hunting it means that you're having trouble expressing yourself, according to psychologist and media dream expert Ian Wallace's blog. "In day-to-day living, the toilet is where you go to release what is no longer healthy or sustaining for you. Dreaming about needing the toilet reflects some situation in your waking reality that has become unhealthy for you but you are unsure of how to let it go," Wallace explained. "The situation often involves your individual needs and how easily you find it to express them to other people. In waking life, you often hope that your needs will be met if you look after the needs of other people but it can often end up with other people just dumping their problems on you." So, if you want to stop having dreams about not being able to take a dump, it's time to dump your real life emotional baggage.
4. Dreams Of Falling Means You Feel Out Of Control IRL
Dreaming that you're falling can be one of the most unsettling fear-based dreams, IMO. Falling makes most people feel totally out of control, which is why it's so hard to do those trust fall things. It turns out that dreams of falling indicate that you feel out of control in your waking life, according to Dr. Oz. "Additionally, you might be feeling that you don’t measure up in some way or that you are failing in some area of your life." So, falling can mean failing or loss of control, both of which can induce anxiety both in your dreams and IRL.
5. Dreaming Of A Cheating Lover Signals Fear Of Abandonment
If you dream that your partner is cheating on you it, don't freak out because it doesn't mean they're actually being unfaithful IRL. "Dreaming that your partner is cheating highlights some fears of abandonment that you may be harboring," Dr. Oz explained. "Additionally, you may be feeling as though you are not getting the attention that you would like from your partner." Before you punish your partner for being a dream cheater, examine if there are other issues in your relationship that you're not addressing.
6. Dreams Of Being Back In School Highlights Drama At Work
Sometimes office politics can feel about as mature as a seventh-grade playground, and dreaming that you're back in school could mean that you're stressed about real or perceived drama at work. "If you’re late for class in your dream, are you worried about a deadline at work? If you can’t find your class or your locker, are you not feeling like you are where you would like to be in your job or career? If you’re having to repeat your senior year all over again, even though you know you already graduated years ago, ask yourself if you are having to prove yourself at work or with a new boss," Dr. Oz noted. It's not unusual for your career to bring all of your teenage insecurities to the surface. If this is happening to you in your dreams it might be time examine what's stressing you out in your career.
7. Dreaming You're Naked Might Mean You Feel Wrongly Accused
If you ever dream that you're naked someplace that requires clothes, the Sleep Matters Club noted that you might feel as if you've been wrongly accused. Additionally, Dr. Oz explained that naked dreams highlight insecurities or feelings of vulnerability in your waking life. What's more, "Being naked in your dreams can also indicate that you are feeling ashamed of something that you said or did. It is the 'naked truth' in dream form: you’re being open and honest with yourself about something, or maybe you need to be." This one has multiple meanings so you'll have to decide for yourself which one applies to you and decide how to move forward.
8. Dreams Of Demons Denote Negative Influences In Your Life
If your dreams involve devils or demons, don't panic because it doesn't mean that you're getting haunted or are about to be possessed. Instead, dreaming of demons means that you have negative influences in your life, according to the website Dreaming and Sleeping. Whether it be a bad relationship, toxic friends, or a job you need to leave ASAP, dreaming about demons is trying to make you aware that it might be time to clean your cosmic house.
9. Dreaming Of Clowns Means Someone Is Trying To Hurt You
The meaning behind clowns in your dreams depends on whether you love or hate clowns IRL. Wait, are there actually people who like clowns? If you're a clown lover, dreaming of clowns means you're seeking more fun in your life, according to the website Sleep Culture. If clowns creep you out then dreaming of clowns could signal that someone close to you doesn't have your best interests at heart and it might be time to reevaluate that relationship. If you're unsure, trust your gut on this one. Because, no one needs to be dreaming about clowns.
10. Dreams Of Malfunctioning Phones = Communication Breakdown
What could be scarier than your phone not working? This has to be the worst dream on the list. However, dreaming that your phone or computer is malfunctioning doesn't mean that your electronics are headed for a meltdown. According to How Stuff Works, dreams related to phone problems could signal a failure to communicate in some area of your life, or that you're anxious about making an emotional connection with someone. "You feel as though you can't seem to connect, can't reach him or her, that you keep losing touch. You can't reach someone on an emotional level, or feel that something in your body is not working properly." While fear-based dreams are certainly unpleasant, they're actually your subconscious mind's way of trying to alert you of problems in your life that you need to address. Once you start working on the waking issues, those scary dreams should go away and be replaced with delicious dreams of puppies and unicorns. I mean not really, but you get the point.