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Anxiety Dreams

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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 Bad Dreams, 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 Bad Dreams is to Dreaming of Times Gone By.

Super-Trope of "Not Wearing Pants" Dream.

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.

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



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    Anime & Manga 

    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 Rose Is Rose, the greedy Clem has a nightmare where he shared all the brownies and left none for himself.
  • 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.

    Fan Works 

  • 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 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 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 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.
  • In Devon Monk's Dead Iron, LeFel does not sleep because he will only dream of dying, which is near.
  • 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 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 Wen Spencer's Tinker, she suffers them regularly, a mix of current events tossed up with a dream maze.
  • Also by Wen Spencer, in A Brother's Price the Princess Rennsaeler has been having Bad Dreams 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 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.
  • 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 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.
  • In Jasper John Dooley: Public Library Enemy #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 the Dirty Bertie 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.

    Live-Action TV 
  • 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.
  • 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.

  • 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.)

    Web Comics 

    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 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.


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