The Meaning of Fears and Anxieties in Dreams

by Anne Windermere Patient Advocate

Every night, whether we like it or not we take our fears and worries with us to bed. Even when we close our eyes and go to sleep, somehow our mind captures our anxieties and translates them into dream imagery. Many of our fears are shared by others so the theme of our dreams may have universal symbols and elements common to most people.

It is my belief that the exploration of our dreams can help us to cope with the fears of our waking life. When we remember a dream and we expose it to the light, so to speak, we are able to be cognizant of which life issues are most troubling to us. Our conscious mind strives to protect us from seeing all our fears at once. But in the unconscious realm, fears and anxieties are fluid and flowing without any boundaries to contain them. Within the dreamscape the truth of what we most fear comes to life in haunting images and dream metaphors.

We are going to take a look at some of the more common fears as represented by dreams and some of the meanings ascribed to such dream themes. The one thing to keep in mind is that there is no one interpretation for your dreams. Dreams are literally what you make of them. Only you have the understanding of what certain objects, people, and events represented in your dreams mean to you.

One way to begin examining your dreams is to write down what you remember of the dream upon awakening. What was the mood of the dream? What images do you remember seeing? Were there any patterns or repetition of themes in your dream? Without any second guessing, what does your gut say your dream meant to you? Follow your train of thought and see where it goes. Have you learned anything about yourself? If so then you have achieved the goal of dream exploration.

Here are five common dream themes followed by a possible interpretation of what these fears in dreams can mean:

1. Dreaming of losing your teeth: This is an extremely common type of dream. I have had this dream many times. My dream usually begins with feeling that one of my teeth is loose and then much to my alarm it falls out. Other teeth then rapidly begin loosening and falling out as I try to save them or even put them back in my mouth. My thoughts during this anxiety provoking dream are: When is this going to stop?

What this dream can mean: It bears repeating that although most people have had this type of dream; it may mean different things to each individual. The key is to figure out what the symbols mean to you. Deanna Joseph of BellaOnline interprets the losing teeth dream to indicate that you have literally "bitten off more than you can chew" and that perhaps you are having problems making a decision. The anxiety over losing your teeth in the dream can pertain to your real life fears of making a wrong decision. Another interpretation I have seen is that the teeth falling out in a dream is a metaphor for your real life worry of "losing face." You may be facing some real life situation where you are worried about looking bad in front of others.

2. Being unprepared for an examination: This is another dream I have had frequently. The subject is usually math (this was my weakest subject in school) and the teacher pulls out a test which I am totally unprepared to take. I have not studied and I am caught by surprise. In the dream I am anxious about failing the test.

What this dream can mean: This common dream seems easy to figure out. The dream interpretation site, Electric Dreams, interprets this dream to mean that you are feeling unprepared for some event or situation in your real life. The advice is given to examine which situations in your life are causing you to feel fear about being tested or unprepared. Many people who have this dream are feeling great stress in their jobs or relationships.

3. Being chased in a dream: Sometimes this dream is described as a nightmare where we are running from some danger that we cannot escape. There may be a feeling of impending doom of what may happen when the man with a gun, wild animal, or monster finally gets us. You may feel panic as your efforts to run away seem futile.

What this dream can mean: The important metaphor to figure out in this dream is figure out what your chaser or attacker represents in your real life. Being chased by something or someone threatening usually means that there is some element in your real life which you perceive to be threatening. It has invoked a flight response where you feel your only response is to try to escape. The question to ask is, what are you running from in your real life? The distance in the dream between you and the being chasing you may also be important. If the gap is short then this may be a problem which is not going away. It may be wise to figure out what real life situation is making you feel threatened and face the problem head on.

4. Mechanical things not working: Have you ever had a dream where your car won't start or you can't seem to make your phone connect? Most often I have had the dream where I am trying to call someone and either the phone loses connection as I am trying to place the call or else the buttons don't work. This is a very frustrating and anxiety provoking dream as I keep trying to make the device work and it simply won't.

What this dream can mean: A general interpretation of "things not working" in a dream would correspond to elements in our life which are not functional. It could represent a broken relationship or even a part of our psyche which needs repair. My phone dream is a common dream some would interpret as a fear of a real life situation where I am not able to connect or get through to someone. It is wise to consider what the dysfunctional object represents for you in your waking life.

5. Dreaming of an infestation of bugs: In my dreams cockroaches are the insect which plagues me. It starts off with seeing one in the dream and then before you know it they have multiplied and are invading my entire home. In the dream I panic because it seems there is no way to get rid of them all.

What this dream can mean: Most people have had dreams of some type of insect or bug. For some people who have insect phobias, the dream can simply be a reflection of a real life fear. But for many others, the bug has some symbolic meaning. Some dream interpreters would say that dreaming of bugs in general may be a play on words as in, "What is bugging you?" In my dream of invading cockroaches I have since translated this dream to mean that I am dealing with a growing problem. It may start off small but my worry is that it will grow to be uncontrollable if I don't take care of it now.

If you want to know what dreaming about a specific insect or bug may mean, a dream site called Dream Moods provides an alphabetical list of insect dream symbols from ants to worms. Have you had any of these types of dreams? What do you think they mean? Do you feel that examining your dreams can help you to deal with your real life fears and anxieties? Tell us what you think. We are eager to hear from you.

Anne Windermere
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Anne Windermere

These articles were written by a longtime HealthCentral community member who shared valuable insights from her experience living with multiple chronic health conditions. She used the pen name "Merely Me."