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Anxiety Dreams

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Buffy: Do you remember the demon that almost got out the night I died?
Willow: Every nightmare I have that doesn't revolve around academic failure or public nudity is about that thing. In fact, once I dreamt that it attacked me while I was late for a test and naked.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer, "The Zeppo"

A character has a dream, literal or symbolic, about something they dread will come true.

Not prophetically, as in Dreaming of Things to Come, although this being fiction, it's almost guaranteed to be foreshadowing something.

Unlike Past Experience Nightmares, this can and usually is overcome by doing the dreaded thing, or getting past it. Except where they are one and the same, fueled by a fear of facing My Greatest Failure again — in which case facing it will still fix the dreams. Unusually likely to be All Just a Dream.

This trope is to Dreaming of Things to Come as Past Experience Nightmare is to Dreaming of Times Gone By.

"Not Wearing Pants" Dream could overlap if they dream about not wearing pants at an upcoming event they're nervous about. If it's seen to the audience, it's also a Nightmare Sequence. Compare Guilt-Induced Nightmare.

Truth in Television. In fact, some posit that this is the reason we dream — you run through the worst-case scenario in your mind so that if you do end up running from a herd of rabid t-rexes with laser vision, you have more of an idea for how to handle it. Though it is much more likely that these dreams will express themselves as you facing a slightly more mundane crisis; several studies show that it is actually quite normal for the average person to sometimes have dreams centering about showing up late and/or unprepared for work or school (frequently the dream scenario might even be about a performance review/exam situation), finding themselves behind the wheel of fast-moving vehicle they have little-to-no idea of how to control, or losing one to several teeth.

As a side note, some psychologists use the term "anxiety dream" as a synonym for "nightmare"— as in, an anxiety-inducing dream. However, this trope is for nightmares that are caused by a specific anxiety.

A character who suffers from these may also experience Freudian Slips and Boggles the Mind.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Ai/Shiho from Case Closed. Once she had a dream about Gin knowing her secret identity and watching her and her friends from his car, planning to kill them. Later, when she and Conan find Gins car, Ai is terrified.
  • In Fruits Basket, after Kyo falls asleep recalling his relationship with Kyoko Honda, he dreams of her and his mother and sees Kyoko's dead body. A brief Nightmare Sequence culminates with Kyoko's body turning into Tohru's, and seeing blood on his hands. He takes it as a sign that he should give up on Tohru, lest he should hurt her the same way he seems to hurt everyone else he gets close to.
  • In episode 6a of Tamagotchi, Lovelitchi, who starts to struggle with keeping her identity as the Idol Singer Lovelin a secret from the others, has a nightmare where her friends are shocked to hear she's been keeping the secret and voice their feelings of being betrayed, with Mametchi angrily telling her they're not Tama-Friends anymore.

    Comic Books 
  • Several issues of Superboy (1994) start with a dream of Superboy's detailing something he's anxious about, usually with the situation becoming much worse in bizarre ways than what would generally be expected (like being torn in half by two girls who like him) before he wakes up.
  • In Violine, Violine has one about the identity of her father, fearing that it will turn out to be the series' Greater-Scope Villain, Muller, instead of François, who she only just met.

    Comic Strips 
  • In Peanuts, Snoopy dreams of Charlie Brown's flying him like a kite, so that he crashes into the earth and shatters. Waking he blames the 30-inch pizza eaten just before bed.
  • In Rose is Rose, the greedy Clem has a nightmare where he shared all the brownies and left none for himself.

    Fan Works 
  • In the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic fic After That Fateful Night, for a time after telling her friends that she chooses to stay with Nightmare Moon, Twilight starts having nightmares about her friends rejecting her.
  • The Alarmaverse: Alarm Clock: Twice.
    • First, Ditzy dreams about the destruction the Eyeless King could wreak. She sees a vision of Equestria reduced to a lifeless wasteland while Carrot Top offers vaguely-Biblical sounding narration.
    • Second, Ditzy dreams that she's in a ska band, about to play a career-making live show, but she missed all the band's practice sessions and doesn't how to play the songs. And she's forgot to bring her suit, too.
  • Burning Secret: While most of Lincoln’s nightmares are more about his guilt than about things he fears will happen, he does have one nightmare about his sisters yelling at him for starting the fire, which is something he was worried about happening.
  • In Composure, Princess Celestia has dreams in which her sister becomes Nightmare Moon again and attacks her. It later leads to a mild misunderstanding when she wakes up in a hospital with lightning burns and Laser-Guided Amnesia.
  • Hetalia: Axis Powers fanfic Gankona, Unnachgiebig, Unità: Ever since Germany's and Japan's cock fight over him, Italy had been having recurring nightmares of the event. They only found out because he began mumbling in his sleep.
  • Gaz in the fic Gaz, Taster of PTSD. With the anniversary of the time she was cursed to only taste pork (and was subsequently locked up in a lab as a media freak) quickly approaching, and with her being unwilling to talk out her issues about it, she finds herself having repeated nightmares of being back in that situation.
  • In the Glee fanfic Hunting the Unicorn, Blaine has these kinds of dreams, which turn out to be symbolic.
  • In The Loud House fanfic The Nightmare House, it's ambiguous what caused most of the nightmares, but Lori's seemed to stem from a fear of being unneeded, and Luna's seemed to stem from a fear of never becoming successful.
  • In the AU Pokémon: The Series fanfic Symbiosis, Ash starts to have flashbacks of his parents' death and Misty having her eyes gouged out by Spearow.
  • In Three Strikes, the past few days before Operation Domino, Trigger has been having dreams of the Alicorn, where she is either stuck at the bottom of the ocean, playing on her worst fear, or being shot down by it.

    Films — Animation 
  • In Inside Out, Riley is nervous about her new house and school, so her mind-dimension creates a dream about her new house being haunted and her teeth falling out and pants disappearing at school. Joy, Sadness, and Bing Bong, however, then interrupt the dream.
  • In Turning Red, after Ming embarrasses Mei at the Daisy Mart, Mei becomes worried about continuing to live up to her mother's expectations and has a highly symbolic nightmare (that serves as a Genius Bonus) involving Ming being reflected on a folding fan that is on fire which signifies that Ming's authority over Mei is being destroyed.

  • In The Berenstain Bears and Too Much Pressure, Papa, Brother and Sister all have their own anxiety dream each on the same night about their overscheduled lives. In Sister's nightmare, she's on a merry-go-round of activites, which kept going round and round. She tried to get off, but regardless of how hard she tried, she couldn't. In Brother's nightmare, he is caught in a whirlwind of baseballs, soccer balls, and computers. In Papa's nightmare, he is riding the schedule that was hanging on the wall, in the form of a magic carpet, into a deep black hole. Mama, however, didn't have any of those dreams since she didn't fall asleep that night, and laid awake in bed all night thinking about how she'll get through the next day.
  • In L. M. Montgomery's The Blue Castle, Valancy dreams that she is confronting someone whom she told something that proved to be false, and he proves to be made of glass and breaks.
  • Also by Wen Spencer, in A Brother's Price the Princess Rennsaeler has been having Past Experience Nightmares about the theater explosion that killed her husband and older sisters. When she falls in love with Jerin, she starts dreaming that he's there too.
  • In Eleanor Cameron's The Court Of The Stone Children, Nina dreams of trying to look up her phone number in the book although they have just moved there and wouldn't be in it. (She's already gotten lost once.)
  • In Devon Monk's Dead Iron, LeFel does not sleep because he will only dream of dying, which is near.
  • Dirty Bertie:
    • In the story "Pants!", Bertie makes a bet with Nick and loses it, so he has to go to school in his underwear. He then has a "Not Wearing Pants" Dream because he's worried about it.
    • In the story "Mud!", Bertie is afraid to be a goalkeeper and has a nightmare about it.
    • In the story "Toothy!", Bertie has a nightmare about a Depraved Dentist because he's afraid of going to the dentist.
  • Frozen II: A Forest of Shadows: Anna has dreams dealing with her abandonment and self-esteem issues. Her dreams include one about being replaced by another version of her with white hair whom her family prefers, and one about her former fiance, who tried to murder her and her family, trying again to marry her again for her title and telling her that her sister doesn't care because she "has no use" for her. These dreams also include reliving the time she spent frozen as a statue of ice, physically frozen in both senses of the term and how helpless she felt while unable to comfort her sister.
  • In Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Sirius's anxiety dreams are revealed by his Talking in Your Sleep — "He's at Hogwarts" — although inexplicably so only with the knowledge that he just learned Peter Pettigrew was at Hogwarts, ready to strike the moment Voldemort started regaining strength.
  • In Homer's The Iliad, he uses an anxiety dream of being unable to flee when chased, or unable to pursue when chasing, as a metaphor for Achilles's chase after Hector, where Hector couldn't get away, and Achilles could not catch him.
  • In John Hemry's The Lost Fleet novel Invincible, Geary's bad dreams are mixed with this; he tells Desjani that he dreamed of her death. She tells him that His Heart Will Go On will be his duty.
  • In Jasper John Dooley Public Library Enemy Number 1, a children's chapter book, the title character has a comic misunderstanding after accidentally ruining a library book, believing that the cost of the book is $2,500. He has a nightmare in which he actually manages to raise the money, only to realize he can't find it anywhere, and then discovers it in the oven, going up in flames just like the book.
  • In Devon Monk's Magic to the Bone, Allie comments on how she does not have them, sleeping on the drive to a friend's, escaping a city where she's suspected of murdering her father.
  • In Seanan McGuire's October Daye novel One Salt Sea, Anceline offers to take Toby swimming fast. Toby says she looks forward to that — in her nightmares, she thinks.
  • Patricia A. McKillip:
    • In "The Kelpie" Wilding suggests that Emma is sleeping poorly because of these; a future of matrimony and children will give her little chance to paint.
    • In The Riddle-Master of Hed, Raederle is promised in marriage to whoever won the crown. After they learn it was won, and before they learn who it was, she confesses to her brother that she is having dreams of some unearthly bridegroom.
  • In Adrian Tchaikovsky's Dragonfly Falling, the Emperor has dreams about his sister, his only living relative and so the only other person who could claim the throne.
  • In Wen Spencer's Tinker, she suffers them regularly, a mix of current events tossed up with a dream maze.
  • Eric, or Little by Little: When Eric is being blackmailed over the theft of the pigeons, he has nightmares that Brigson and Billy are demanding five pounds from him on pain of death while pigeons swarm him. In the dream, Eric asks Wildney and Mr Rose for help, but they turn from him, while a chorus of voices cries, 'Eric, you are a thief!'

    Live-Action TV 
  • The Brittas Empire: The plot of the episode "The Stuff of Dreams" is kicked off by Brittas having one of these about carrying a ball of light, which represents him fearing his own mortality and the fear that no one will be there to take over the centre when he retires. This is resolved when Helen gives birth to the twins and Brittas realises that they can take over the center.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
    • In "Nightmares", everyone's dreams start to come true. Most are "classic" anxiety dreams such as being in class in one's underpants (Xander), having to sing in public (Willow), losing the ability to read (Giles), and having to sit a test for which she had not taken the class or studied (Buffy).
    • In "Restless" Willow dreams that she's turned up for a play (with everyone she's ever known in the audience, including the cast) without having learnt the lines, then she has to deliver a talk in her Season One nerd persona before a classroom full of her jeering friends. Xander's dream involves him going to the toilet, only to find the entire Initiative is watching him and taking notes.
    • A more subtle version is in "Hush" when Buffy has an Erotic Dream of kissing Love Interest Riley Finn — except it's taking place in front of an entire class, showing her nervousness about trying to get his First Kiss.
    • Spoofed in "The Zeppo":
    Buffy: Do you remember the demon that almost got out the night I died?
    Willow: Every nightmare I have that doesn't revolve around academic failure or public nudity is about that thing. In fact, once I dreamt that it attacked me while I was late for a test and naked.
  • One late episode of Frasier is dedicated to the main characters' anxiety dreams — Frasier dreams that Roz is berating him because his radio booth is full of cobwebs and no one has called in six months, reflecting his worries that his show might be declining as well as his fear of being alone, Niles dreams about accidentally baking his unborn baby into a pie, reflecting his fear that he's going to be a bad father, and Daphne dreams about inflating comically while Niles cheats on her with several supermodels, reflecting her fear that motherhood and age will affect her marriage. Martin, on the other hand, just dreams about singing and dancing with his new girlfriend in the style of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers — without his cane.
  • Only Murders in the Building: In her introductory monologue, Mabel explains that she worries about being assaulted or murdered, and for years has had a recurring nightmare where a masked man breaks into her bedroom and looms over her while she sleeps. She combats this by imagining, in glorious, gruesome detail, how she'd fight back, kicking the guy in the balls and stabbing him to death with a knitting needle she keeps in arm's reach by her bed. This actually helps to soothe her, and after she imagines herself killing her attacker, she's "out like a light, every fucking time."
  • Star Trek: Voyager
    • In "Waking Moments", the crew start having nightmares sent to their minds by a hostile alien. Captain Janeway dreams of her crew dead because she didn't get them home. Tom Paris dreams of a piloting accident like the one that destroyed his career. The Stoic Tuvok sees himself humiliated when he forgets to put on his uniform, and Harry Kim dreams of being ravished by Seven of Nine—which isn't actually too bad for him until the alien appears.
    • In "Ashes to Ashes", Lindsay Ballard, who died and came back as an alien, has a nightmare about her funeral due to her anxiety about whether to live as a human or as an alien.

  • In Flight of the Conchords, Mel has a song about wanting real life to be more like her dreams. Some of the dreams she mentions are stock anxiety dreams, like being naked in public and taking an exam you don't know any of the answers to. (Oddly, this doesn't seem to affect her desire to live in a dream world at all.)

    Visual Novels 
  • When he’s hiding out at the ski lodge in Barbarossa, the protagonist of Double Homework dreams about a scenario in which all the girls worship Dennis as a sort of sex god. Dr. Mosely/Zeta is shown as an executioner. Later, after she realizes how much the protagonist has found out, she tries to kill him, his sisters, and his friends at the lodge.
  • The protagonist of Melody has a dream of an aroused Isabella/Becca/Melody/Amy (the player can choose which), who leads him into the shower. However, instead of this girl, he finds his spiteful ex-fiancée, Bethany, in the shower instead.

    Web Animation 

    Web Comics 
  • Archipelago contains a lot of short dream sequences, mostly Flashback Nightmares, but there are two that revolve around dreamers' defining insecurities:
    • Tuff's short dream when they're going to Quillotia, where he's the monster stalking and attacking Credenza - because he's afraid of Hulking Out
    • Raven's dream in which he summons a raven spirit to get some information and the spirit begins belittling and tempting him.
  • In Doc Rat, Doc, in a high fever, dreams of being attacked for not being at work — and then bringing disaster upon them by going to work.
  • In El Goonish Shive, Grace has a nightmare about how her pacifist nature could affect those around her negatively.
  • In Prickly City, the voter who cast the deciding vote to elect Kevin, Lost Bunny of the Apocalypse, to the Senate (and get him out of Prickly City), has dreams of his campaign for the presidency — combining this with bad dreams.

    Web Original 
  • Phase of the Whateley Universe has anxiety Dreams regularly, and often wakes up in a sweat from them. They're not prophetic, just symptoms of his stress.

    Western Animation 
  • Happens to Aang repeatedly in the Avatar: The Last Airbender episode "Nightmares and Daydreams" about his upcoming key role in the invasion of the Fire Nation, and subsequent battle with Fire Lord Ozai. He tries not sleeping because the nightmares are so bad, but then he goes into sleep deprivations and starts hallucinating.
  • In "Too Much Pressure" from the PBS The Berenstain Bears, Papa, Brother and Sister all have their own anxiety dream each on the same night about their overscheduled lives.
  • DuckTales (2017) features this in "The Other Bin Of Scrooge Mc Duck." Lena stays over Scrooge's house in an effort to steal his Number One Dime at the behest of Magica. After learning that he's keeping the dime in his "other bin" for the night, she insists that Webby take her there. Surprisingly everything goes according to plan. Magica gets the dime and turns Webby into a doll which she promptly destroys but as might be suspected it's All Just a Dream induced by a dreamcatcher that traps you on your worst nightmare. Lena walked through the wrong door.
  • Played for Laughs in the Milo Murphy's Law episode "Sunny Side Up." The day that their assignment is due, Melissa and Zack both have dreams where they wake up and see the things that they need destroyed, only to act relieved when they really wake up and see that everything's fine. Then we get a sequence where Milo wakes up, sees that everything's fine and comments, "Well, that's peculiar." Then he actually wakes up and sees that a tree has crashed through his window.
  • In the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic episode "Bloom and Gloom", Apple Bloom has a series of nightmares about bad things happening once she gets her cutie mark: her special talent turns out to be something uncool; she's no longer part of the Cutie Mark Crusaders; her family rejects her because it doesn't involve apples. There's a hint that an outside force is giving her the dreams, but that turns out to be a Red Herring; it really is just her own anxiety.
  • In the Justice League episode "Only A Dream", Dr. Destiny traps Flash in a nightmare where he's stuck in high-speed mode and everything else is frozen in place around him. He recognizes it as a dream he's occasionally had ever since he got his Super-Speed powers.



Dunk has a nightmare about the incoming ski jump competition

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