An examination of the relationship between language use in post-trauma nightmares and psychological sequelae in a treatment seeking population

  • Caitlin Paquet (Author)
  • Chelsea M. Cogan (Author)
    The University of Tulsa

    Department of Psychology, M.A. Doctoral Candidate

  • Joanne L. Davis (Author)
    University of Tulsa

    Department of Psychology, Ph. D., Professor

Identifiers (Article)


Nightmares are thought to exist on a continuum of dream experiences, reflecting a more dysphoric process relative to dreams (Levin & Nielsen, 2009). Although there exists an established relationship between nightmares and increased symptomatology, the meaning of this relationship is still unclear (Davis et al., 2008). This study utilized the nightmare transcriptions from a treatment seeking sample of chronic and frequent nightmare sufferers to explore the relationship between language usage in nightmare narratives and indices of distress including posttraumatic stress disorder [PTSD] symptom severity and individual PTSD symptom cluster severity, nightmare frequency, nightmare distress, and nighttime panic symptoms.  It was hypothesized that there would be significant relationships between language use and the aforementioned indices of distress. Specifically, that there would be a positive relationship between symptomatology and words related to negative emotions and perceptual processing, and a negative relationship between symptomatology and the use of words related to cognitive processes and positive emotions. Results indicate that language use, specifically words related to perceptual and cognitive processes, in post-trauma nightmares is associated with increased PTSD symptoms severity, nightmare distress, nightmare frequency, and nighttime panic symptoms. These results suggest that language use in nightmares may reveal important information about underlying cognitive and emotional processes that may help to better understand the etiology and maintenance of PTSD symptoms.




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Contributor or sponsoring agency
Office of Research and Sponsored Programs, University of Tulsa; Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology, Oklahoma
Posttraumatic stress disorder, Sleep, Language use, LIWC, Posttraumatic nightmares
How to Cite
Paquet, C., Cogan, C., & Davis, J. (2020). An examination of the relationship between language use in post-trauma nightmares and psychological sequelae in a treatment seeking population. International Journal of Dream Research, 13(2), 173–181.