Evaluation of Dream Content among Patients with Schizophrenia, Their Siblings, Patients with Psychiatric Diagnoses Other Than Schizophrenia, and Healthy Control

By Khazaie, Habibolah; Tahmasian, Masoud et al. | Iranian Journal of Psychiatry, Winter 2012 | Go to article overview
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Evaluation of Dream Content among Patients with Schizophrenia, Their Siblings, Patients with Psychiatric Diagnoses Other Than Schizophrenia, and Healthy Control


Khazaie, Habibolah, Tahmasian, Masoud, Younesi Md, Golrokh, Schwebel, David C., Rezaei, Mansour, Rezaie, Leeba, Mohamadi, Mehrak, Ghanbari, Arezo, Iranian Journal of Psychiatry


Objective: Schizophrenia is a chronic psychotic disorder with unknown etiology that causes cognitive impairment, affecting thinking, behavior, social function, sleep and dream content. This study considered the dream content of patients with schizophrenia, siblings of patients with schizophrenia, patients with psychiatric diagnoses other than schizophrenia, and a group of healthy controls. The aim of this study was to compare the dream content of patients with schizophrenia with dream content of individuals with other mental disorders, first degree relatives of patients with schizophrenia, and community controls .

Method: Seventy-two patients were selected and placed in 4 groups. The first group consisted of 18 inpatients with schizophrenia whose medications were stable for at least four weeks; the second group consisted of 16 nonpsychotic mentally ill inpatients; the third group consisted of 18 individuals who were siblings of patients with schizophrenia; and the fourth group consisted of 20 healthy individuals in the community with no family history of mental or somatic disorders. The four groups were matched by age and gender. A 14-item dream content questionnaire was administered for all the participants, and the Positive and Negative Symptoms Scale (PANSS) was also administered for the two groups of hospitalized patients .

Results: Results showed that there were significant differences in dream content among groups included friends acquaintances, females and colorful components. No significant differences were found between the positive and negative subscales of PANSS and any of the dream questionnaire subscales.

Conclusion: Our results suggest that there were a few changes in the dream content of the patients with schizophrenia compare to other groups.

Keywords: Dream, Psychopathology, Schizophrenia

Iran J Psychiatry 2012; 7:26-30

Dreaming is a subjective experience during sleep which can often be recalled and accessed after awakening. It is a topic that has been of interest to psychologists and psychiatrists for many years. Popularized especially by early psychoanalytic thinkers, the interpretation of dreams remains an important part of assessment and treatment for researchers and clinicians (1-3). In particular, similarities between clinical symptoms of psychotic disorders like schizophrenia, including hallucination and bizarre thinking, and dream content in both mentally well and mentally ill individuals have led to recognition of this issue in these patients (4,5).

A few studies have analyzed differences in dream content of patients with schizophrenia versus those without mental illness (4-7). Researchers have reported that dreams in patients with schizophrenia tend to be simpler and less elaborate (2,8), less emotionally sophisticated and self-involved (2,9), more bizarre (10-12), and more negative, violent, and unfriendly (9,11,13) compared to dreams of healthy individuals. In many cases, patients with schizophrenia see themselves as victims of hostility from outside in their dreams (11,14).

Some studies compared the dream content of patients with schizophrenia to dream content of other patients with non-psychotic mental illnesses. Hadjez and Stein found no differences between the groups in most aspects of dream content (including anxiety, cognitive disturbance and recall), although they reported differences in involvement of patients (e.g. patients with schizophrenia showed less involvement) and also emotional expression in dreams (patients with schizophrenia had less emotional content) (2). Kay and colleagues have reported that patients with schizophrenia had more negative content in their dreams than patients with non-psychotic illnesses. They found no relationship between the positive symptoms and dream content (15).

The present study was designed to study the dream content of patients with schizophrenia compared to three other groups of participants (patients with non-psychotic mental illness, first degree family members of patients with schizophrenia, and healthy controls).

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