Why the nightmares? Repeating nightmares among intimate partner violence survivors
Repeating nightmares are a common phenomenon experienced by survivors of intimate partner violence (IPV). Based on neuroscience and cognitive research, a new model for nightmare generation was created, the AMPHAC/AND neurocognitive model, that suggests nightmares involve an internal fear-memory extinction process facilitating recovery from trauma. The model further identifies repeating nightmares as an impairment of the psychological healing process because they prevent the generation of fear-extinction memories. The two types of repeating nightmares (those that recreate the trauma [i.e., replicative nightmares] and those that repeat but are not recreations of trauma [i.e., recurrent nightmares]) were evaluated to determine if they are significantly related to PTSD symptom severity and nightmare distress, which is implicated by the model in impairing novel, fear-extinction memory generating nightmares. 78 participants were recruited and provided responses to questions evaluating the frequency of repeating nightmares, PTSD symptom severity, nightmare distress, and their experiences of IPV. Analyses of these responses generated the findings that both types of repeating nightmares are significantly correlated with PTSD symptom severity and nightmare distress, and there is a significant negative correlation between the length of time since the last repeating nightmare and PTSD symptom severity.