Here's What It Really Means When You Have Violent Dreams

Is there a fight taking place in your dream, or has someone been in an accident? If you have violent dreams, you're not alone. Many people will experience violent dreams at one time or another (via WebMD). And like nightmares, they can make you feel uncomfortable or uneasy, and not necessarily reflect how you feel when you're awake. Violent dreams might involve picturing injuries to yourself or others, and can sometimes involve death. They can also be difficult to pinpoint where exactly they've come from and why you're having them. 

There's still a lot we don't know about dreams, but we're always learning more about why we have them and what they mean (via Verywell Mind). There's no one answer to the question of what your violent dreams mean, but there are a number of possibilities to explore. From health conditions to potential past traumas, violent dreams can indicate plenty of things. Here's a look at what yours might be trying to tell you.

Decoding your violent dreams

Dr. Angel Morgan, president of the International Association for the Study of Dreams, explained in article for HuffPost, "Our ordinary dreams tend to be symbolic, using metaphors or puns to tell a story about what we are feeling and experiencing that concerns us most at the time of the dream. ... For example, if someone has experienced violence in waking life, then yes violence can make its way into that person's dream because they need to process and eventually heal from what happened."

If you have a violent dream, it could also represent some particularly intense feelings, especially if the dreams involve somebody you know. Violent dreams can be due to past traumatic experiences, or simply because violence has been on your mind. As psychologist Chris Cortman told online counseling website Thriveworks, "When it comes to dreams, always remember that they are born from the material inside the dreamer's head."

The media we consume during the day can impact our dreams too, so a violent dream could follow a nighttime session of watching violent movies or TV shows, as an Ohio State University study found (via ScienceDaily). Dr. Morgan also suggested that the brain uses imagery from violent shows, movies, or videos games in an effort to help us. "When we don't identify as violent people in waking life, our dreaming minds often use gladiators or others we recognize as killers, to do the dirty work and help us 'clean house' in dreams," Morgan continued.

Violent dreams and your health

It may sound hard to believe, but violent dreams can indicate certain health conditions. A 2011 study published in Drugs & Aging found that violent dreams can be a sign of REM sleep behavior disorder, which may precede various neurological disorders including Parkinson's disease, Lewy body dementia, and multiple system atrophy.

As reported in Wired, people who live with REM sleep behavior disorder see their dreams become more violent. While it was originally not thought to be connected to any further problems, it was found that over 80% of people with the disorder go on to develop a neurodegenerative disease. Of course, that's not to suggest that violent dreams will indicate health problems later on in life, but it's something to be aware of. 

Another simple medical explanation for violent dreams is that they can be caused by various types of medication (via Psychology Today). As psychologist Chris Cortman explained to Thriveworks, "Medications alter the biochemistry of the brain and therefore can influence dreams."