What’s Up With the Recurring Quarantine Nightmares?

Bad dreams seem to be on the rise. But what you’re experiencing at night may depend on how you’re living right now.

Photo: artur carvalho/Getty Images

Many bad dreams involve images that seem to be metaphors for the coronavirus: “Bugs are a problem…I think that’s partly because we use the word ‘bug’ as slang for ‘virus.’”

Nightmares — especially recurrent ones — can in fact be a symptom of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. “People with PTSD [tend to] experience ongoing nightmares as the brain tries to ‘solve’ the [source of their] stress, often without success, while they are sleeping,” explains Dimitriu. Though the current pandemic will affect everyone differently, the authors of a 2013 study on PTSD after health-related disasters noted that “pandemic disasters and subsequent disease-containment responses may create a condition that families and children find traumatic.” And while pandemics can cause trauma for anyone, Barrett believes trauma may be more common among those on the front lines.

Anna Gragert is a writer, editor, and content strategist who has worked with publications such as Teen Vogue, Bust, LAist, Catapult, and more.

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