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      I feel like when we wake up after a dream, there is a subconscious mechanism that kicks in afterwards that tells us “that was not a dream, not a real memory, so dont worry about it”, and this recategorisation of the memory  washes away a lot of the emotions tied to it.  Thats why you can have outlandish dreams about flying or going invisible, but then when you wake up you don’t literally think these events actually happened.

      Its the malfunction of this mechanism that causes issues, with both OCD and regular dreams.  Im sure you have had experiences with dreams that you woke up from and were convinced, at least for a short period, were real. I know i certainly have.  Im sure its probably the explanation behind 90% of all alien abduction and ghost stories – dreams that ended up being categorised as memories.

      More to the point, when we have particularly horrible OCD dreams, this mechanism can hurt us in both cases.  For example, if the mechanism doesn’t kick in, we can become convinced that some horrible happened or that we want to do something horrible.  However, when the mechanism does kick in, we can get this discontinuity between the objectively horrific content of the dream and the seeming lack of emotional response upon waking up.  That sounds like what might have happened in your case – you had a dream with objectively bad content but woke up not feeling that bad about it, and that discontinuity is what is distressing because it makes you feel like you don’t mind that bad content that much.


      So perhaps consider that going forward.  When you have a bad dream but don’t feel that bad about it when you wake up, thats the correct response, because its a dream and its not real.  You can thank a million years of human evolution for your subconscious ability to tell the difference between reality and dreams, even when your conscious mind is being throttled by fear.


      Forum Moderators


        Forum moderators here; we’re sorry you haven’t had many replies yet. Please don’t take this personally or ever think you’re alone. It may just be that forum users are taking a bit of  time to consider how to reply and support you.

        And please remember that you can also contact the OCD Action Helpline to talk to or email someone who understands OCD.

        Our Helpline volunteers provide confidential help, information and support for people with OCD (and anyone who thinks they may have OCD). Most volunteers have personal experience of OCD; all understand how it can impact your entire life. Contact our Helpline by:

        • phone: 0300 636 5478 (this is a UK number).
        • email:

        And please remember that you’re never alone – OCD Action is always here to help and support you.

        Best wishes,

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