7 Common Dreams That Are Linked To High-Functioning Anxiety

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As surreal as they can be, dreams tend to be rooted in reality. They draw from our memories and present us with a distorted, wacky mirror of real life. And, for people with high-functioning anxiety, there are certain types of stress dreams that pop up again and again.

Anxiety dreams can be unpleasant, often trapping you in situations where you have no control, but they can actually be useful.

“The dream will show you in a brutally honest form what's going on inside of you,” professional dream analyst Lauri Loewenberg, tells Bustle. “They speak to us in metaphors, and the benefit of that is it allows us to see our situation, our mindset, our issues in a different light.”

Although stress dreams are often indicators of something being wrong, usually they can be resolved fairly easily. It could just mean that you should relax or tackle things at work differently. However, if these dreams are happening consistently or waking you up in middle of the night, you might want to consider other options.

“Talking with a therapist can really be a way to [...] decrease the anxiety that we're feeling during the day so that our brain has other things to work through,” Dr. Jennifer MacLeamy, PsyD, an executive director at the teen treatment center Newport Academy, tells Bustle.

These are some of the most common dreams linked to high-functioning anxiety, according to experts.

1. You're Running From A Tornado

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The tornado is a powerful symbol in anxiety dreams. Loewenberg attributes this to the nature of tornados.

“It's a destructive force like anxiety is to your peace of mind,” Loewenberg says.

She also says that, because tornados are so unpredictable, they represent the anxiety of constantly bracing for the worst.

2. You're Swept Away By A Tidal Wave

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If you’re dreaming about getting overwhelmed by a tidal wave, this could signal some stress in your life.

“Our subconscious will use that dream to show you that this worry, this anxiety is overwhelming you and it's threatening to sweep you away from your normal routine,” Loewenberg says.

She says it’s important to listen to this symbol; it’s a sign you should work on staying afloat of the stress in your daily life.

3. You’re Caught In A Flood

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A common stress dream is being stuck in a flood, as the water gets higher and higher.

“That dream is just letting you know that this worry or anxiety is increasing as the days go by,” Loewenberg says.

4. You're Caught In An Earthquake

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Earthquakes are inescapable and terrifying, so it makes sense they represent a lack of self-control when experienced in dreams.

“You're not on stable ground, so to speak, when you're in a bout of anxiety, and every aspect of your life is on shaky ground,” Loewenberg says.

5. You’re In A Car Crash

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Like earthquakes, car accidents can symbolize a lack of self-control.

“It’s a perfect metaphor for how you're feeling in real life during anxiety. You can't put the brakes on it. You can't steer it,” Loewenberg says.

6. Someone’s Breaking Into Your House

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Another common stress dream is an intruder breaking into your home.

“That is reflective of how this is trying to break into your peace of mind,” Loewenberg says. “It is an intrusion on your psyche.”

7. You’re Unprepared For A Test

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This one is classic — you show up for a test only to realize you didn’t study and have no clue what the answers are. Dr. MacLeamy says this falls into the threat simulation theory, which basically say that our dreams help us prepare for potentially dangerous events.

“If I have a test that I wasn't prepared for, what would I do?” Dr. MacLeamy says. “In our dreams, it's a great way of trying to work that out ahead of time, and, in theory, kind of prepare ourselves to prevent dangerous things from happening.”

Although anxiety dreams are unpleasant, they can be helpful signals that something in your life needs to change. By decreasing the stress throughout the day, you can ensure that you have a peaceful rest at night.