The older I get, the more I appreciate a solid night of sleep. But, there have been plenty of times when that has seemed like an impossible goal — especially when certain common anxiety dreams would hit.


Throughout college and the years after, I found it really hard to shut my brain down. I tried everything — from a glass of wine to meditation and herbal supplements. (Not at the same time, of course.) It was frustrating when nothing worked. At least mornings included a nice amount of coffee to help me through the sleep-deprived days.

As it turns out, I had general anxiety. And looking back, it’s pretty obvious that I’ve had it since elementary school.

What I thought was just regular anxiety actually wasn’t — and I was upset when I finally learned that my life could have been a lot easier this whole time, had I recognized it.

I’ve found much better ways to handle my anxiety, but it doesn’t mean that it hasn’t affected my sleep since. In fact, just the opposite.

While getting to sleep has been easier, it’s still hard to shield my brain from the nightmare scenarios inherent to anxiety dreams. And there are a ton of ways my anxiety is still manifesting in my head in subtle ways.

If you’re curious about what your own anxiety-induced dreams could mean, here are a few explanations of the most common anxiety dreams to help you understand what your brain is processing.

1. Being Underwater

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Drowning is one of the scariest scenarios you can face. So, what does it mean if you dream that you’re underwater, fighting to get back on land?

According to DreamBible, it’s pretty common to dream about being underwater — especially if you’re currently feeling overwhelmed by negative or harsh emotions. This is one of the more common anxiety dreams you can have, since when you feel like you’re losing control, it can often feel like you’re gasping for air.

A guided meditation might help you when you wake up from a dream like this.

Fortunately, there are a host of guided meditation apps you can download to help you with any anxiety you are dealing with. If you don’t want to use an app, you can try simply focusing on your breath instead. This will especially help, given the awful feeling of not being able to breathe in underwater dreams.

2. Aimlessly Driving

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Ever have a dream where you’re behind the wheel, but feel a little lost?

It’s relatively common — and horrifying in the moment. But these common anxiety dreams make a lot of sense, especially if you’re not too sure where you’re going in life. The car represents you, and the lack of a clear road ahead means that you’re feeling aimless and looking for some sort of direction.

Remember, even if it feels like it in the dream itself, you’re not alone.

Plenty of people have dreams about getting lost while driving, along with other car-specific nightmares. If you can remember some details from your dream, like how fast you were going or if someone was in the car with you, you can try to suss out what is really triggering your anxiety.

3. Having A Loved One Die

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When you have a dream like this, it can throw off your entire day.

But witnessing a loved one die in a dream doesn’t mean that your loved one is going to pass away. The Huffington Post talked to psychotherapist Jeffrey Sumber, who said that these dreams often happen while trying to cure some cause of anxiety. Seems like a weird way to treat anxiety, brain.

Sumber noted that a death dream usually indicates “the symbolic ending of something.”

This can be the ending of  “a phase, a job, or a relationship,” says Sumber. So while it can mean something that makes you anxious is ending, it doesn’t mean literal death (thankfully). Still, it might be nice to give your mom a call, you know, just to say hi.

4. Being Cheated On

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It’s one of the worst things a partner can do — so it’s a terrifying dream to wake up from.

If you hold a lot of anxiety about your current relationship, that may come out in a bad dream. The best way to ease your mind is to talk with your partner. Tell them about the dreams if they’ve been happening a lot, and see if there are ways you can work on your relationship to build more of a solid bond.

You could be feeling neglected by your partner.

Again, communication is key here. If you feel like your partner is not giving the support you need, or that there have been miscommunications that have led to distance, talk about it! Otherwise you can expect to continue experiencing these anxiety dreams, which won’t help the relationship.

5. Teeth Falling Out

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This is one of the most common anxiety dreams to have, especially if you’re struggling with chronic anxiety.

Losing your teeth can mean a few things. For one, it’s a fear of getting older and losing attractiveness, as — apparently — your smile is the light in the window of your soul. But this dream can also indicate a loss of control. And we know how scary it can be.

This could be a hint that something needs to change.

If you feel like you’re not being heard at work, or if you’re seemingly in the passenger seat of your own life, this is a huge indicator that things need to change. (And if you want to book a dentist appointment just to make sure your teeth are fine, that’s good, too.)

6. The End Of The World

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Speaking of lack of control…

You can’t get more out of control than the world ending. And DreamingAndSleeping senses that a dream of impending doom means you’re way too stressed out. It could be due to a huge workload, or maybe you just went through a major life change.

Regardless of the situation, you need to take a little time out for yourself.

Your brain requires it. And make sure that time you take for yourself is quality self-care time. We all need a night in binge-watching the latest series on Netflix, sure. But make sure you are practicing healthy habits to knock these bad dreams, too. Do some stretching, gratitude journaling, or take a leisurely walk as a break every now and then.

7. Forgetting Everything

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Forgetfulness is a frustrating trait to have.

But what does it mean when you’re forgetting everything in a dream? This is a popular anxiety-based dream since it’s a situation that — obviously — causes even more anxiety when you’re actually awake. In the dream, it’s just your brain going haywire. And unfortunately, anxiety just tends to breed more anxiety. Great.

Forgetting about something big, like taking care of a baby, often indicates that you need some time to cope with a new responsibility.

We get it, new responsibilities can be challenging! It is natural to feel uneasy when something new is added to your plate. If you need help with something, ask for it. And, for the record, the baby dream is one every new or expecting mom has at least once.

8. Watching Your House Burn

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A house fire is one of the most devastating tragedies someone can go through.

In general, fire can represent having a lot on your mind. If your possessions are burned, it could also symbolize your own fear and anxiety over losing everything you love. But it can also represent a big change. If you’ve been increasingly negative, a fire regarding something personal to you can signify the need for a life cleanse.

9. Public Nudity

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Is there anything more embarrassing than realizing you forgot to put pants on?

Sure, this doesn’t happen too often in real life. But it definitely happens in dreams. DreamMoods states that these types of dreams express our vulnerability. When you’re naked, you’re absolutely exposed — and if you’re hiding a secret, or feel insecure with yourself, these dreams may be more common. Just take a deep breath and remind yourself that you’ve got this.

10. Falling

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When you’re falling in a dream, you often feel as if you’re approaching certain death.

But don’t worry — you’re not dying. If anything, you’ll face your anxieties and fears head on. Because that’s the exact thing that manifests dreams like this. Your brain may be telling you that you’ve lost your footing in a big situation, and feel as if there’s no way to regain control. Just know that every situation has a way of turning itself around.

11. Getting Chased

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This is one of the worst dreams out there, especially if you have anxiety.

The Huffington Post interviewed psychotherapist Richard Nicoletti to figure out what this common dream means, and oddly enough, one of the key reasons your brain is channeling these thoughts is avoidance. “You may be avoiding something painful, annoying, or fearful,” Nicoletti said, adding that “trying to avoid the issue could lead to more recurring dreams.” So, if you’re tired of having this dream, maybe you need to face what’s bothering you.

12. Being Late

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Some of us are just naturally always late. For others, it’s a theme that just comes up in our dreams.

Michael R. Olsen, a dream expert, believes that these types of dreams mean that we fear we’re not living up to our own expectations. So, if you’re extremely hard on yourself, you may have this dream quite a bit. “When we dream that we are late or that we are about to be late, it is often because we are fighting a battle to achieve more than we can actually handle,” Olsen writes. Take it easy on yourself, and start incorporating a little more self-care into your routine.

13. Being Made Fun Of

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Even adults sometimes flashback to the torturous times back in middle school when they were the unwilling punchline to someone else’s joke.

It makes sense as to why mockery and ridicule might come up in a dream, especially if you’ve experienced it before. It’s like your brain is preparing you for another battle to keep your self-esteem at a good level. Just take a deep breath and know that your brain is just playing games with you.

14. Having Bugs Crawl On You

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It’s the worst feeling ever, especially when it happens in a dream.

In a dream, the bugs can easily multiply to levels that probably aren’t all that common in reality. Dreams about bugs often mean that you’re overcome with guilt or anxiety and feel like it’s literally crawling all over you. If you have this dream, your brain is telling you that you need to face what’s bothering you and get it out in the open.

15. Losing Your Hair

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Ever have a dream where your hair is just falling out in clumps?

It’s a scary situation, and a little gross if you happen to be pulling it out piece by piece. A dream like this can mean you’re anxious about getting older, but DreamMoods points out that it also symbolizes a lack of strength. Afraid that you’re not being heard at work? Then, you can understand why your brain is making you feel like you’re slowly going bald.

16. You’re Trapped

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If you can’t find an exit in your dream, you may want to look at your reality.

Woman’s Day reports that dreams about being trapped likely mean you’re stressed and anxious about a life situation where you feel like you’re stuck. Maybe you’re in a bad job and nowhere else is hiring locally. Or maybe your relationship has gone stale, and it’s time to officially end it. What this type of dream is telling you is that you really need to take action and make a big change to benefit your mental health.



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