Nightmare Frequency, Nightmare Distress, and Psychopathology in Female Victims of Childhood Maltreatment

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This study investigated the relationships between a history of childhood maltreatment, the frequency of disturbing dreams, their associated distress, and the presence of psychopathology in 352 female undergraduate volunteers. Participants completed questionnaires assessing dream recall, bad dream and nightmare frequency, nightmare distress, psychological well-being, and history of childhood trauma. Four groups were investigated based on the type and severity of childhood maltreatments experienced. Women reporting more severe forms of maltreatment reported higher frequencies of disturbing dreams, higher levels of nightmare distress, and greater psychopathology. Results showed that nightmare distress explains frequency of disturbed dreaming beyond the effect of psychopathology and childhood trauma. The results highlight the importance of assessing waking distress associated with disturbing dreams independently from their actual incidence.

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