When altered dreams announce a suicidal crisis

by time news

It may be a new tool to help predict suicidal risks, and thus reduce the burden of voluntary deaths which, although decreasing, concern approximately 700,000 people per year worldwide. Recent work by a French team shows that an alteration of dreams is found in 80% of people hospitalized for a suicidal crisis (defined by suicidal thoughts or by a suicide attempt), with a progression in the months following the previous.

The psychiatrist and sleep specialist Pierre Geoffroy (Bichat-Claude-Bernard hospital, AP-HP, GHU Paris) and his colleagues questioned about their nights forty people hospitalized in a post-emergency psychiatric unit for suicidal crisis, they report in the January-February 2023 edition of Journal of Clinical Psychiatry.

The researchers were particularly interested in three types of “event”: bad dreams (unpleasant content), nightmares (bad dreams that wake you up) and nightmares with a suicidal scenario. Results: among the 31 women and 9 men studied, aged on average 29 years, only 8 (20%) had not had any alteration in their dreams before the suicidal crisis. And among the 32 evoking altered dreams, i.e. 80% of the workforce, 27 (67.5%) said they had had bad dreams, 21 (52.5%) nightmares and 9 (22.5%) nightmares with suicidal scenario. About one in six (17.5%) had had all three types of dream content alteration. The two groups – without or with altered dreams – were comparable in terms of age, sex, physical activity, socio-economic conditions, specify Pierre Geoffroy and his colleagues. In addition, the majority of patients suffered from anxiety disorders or depression, and poor quality sleep – even real insomnia for 60% of them.

Understand intimate mechanisms

While links between nightmares and suicide attempts have already been suggested by several studies, the originality of the work published in The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry is to have examined the trajectory of dream alteration. French researchers thus observe that bad dreams appear on average one hundred and eleven days before the suicidal crisis, nightmares eighty-seven days before, and dreamed suicidal scenarios forty-five days before.

“Of course, bad dreams or nightmares are not pathological in themselves” – Pierre Geoffroy, psychiatrist

This progression, with up to three stages, which therefore begins nearly four months before the crisis leading to hospitalization, should serve as a warning signal for the main parties concerned and their doctor, believes Professor Geoffroy. “Of course, bad dreams or nightmares are not pathological in themselves.he recalls. It is their appearance and repetition in a context of depression that should alert, and even more so the intensity of the experience in these altered dreams and their repercussions during the day. Some of these patients literally feel cornered by their suicidal scenarios. »

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