Nightmares and dissociative experiences: The key role of childhood traumatic events


address: Mehmet Yucel Agargun, md, Yuzuncu Yil University School of Medicine, Department of Psychiatry and Neuroscience Research Unit, Van 65200, Turkey. Email:


Abstract In order to examine the co-occurrence of nightmares with dissociative experiences in the adolescent population and to demonstrate the impact of childhood traumatic events in this association, 292 undergraduate students were interviewed for childhood traumatic events. The Van Dream Anxiety Scale (VDAS) and Dissociative Experiences Scale (DES) were also administered to the subjects. For nightmares a 7.5% prevalence of ‘often’ and a 58.2% prevalence of ‘sometimes’ was found for college students. Nightmare prevalence was higher in women than in men. The rate of childhood traumatic experiences was higher in nightmare sufferers than in those who did not have nightmares. The subjects who had undergone physical and sexual abuse had higher VDAS global scores and item scores. When the DES scores of the subjects with nightmares were compared with that of those who had never reported nightmares, the subjects with nightmares had significantly higher scores on DES. The DES scores were also negatively correlated with duration of nightmares in subjects who had childhood traumatic experiences. These findings suggest that the subjects with childhood traumatic events failed to psychologically integrate their traumatic experiences and used dissociation as a coping strategy.