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5 Dreams You Should Never Ignore, According to Psychologists

These nightmares could be a sign you have a bigger issue in real life.

"Phew, it was just a dream," you think, opening your eyes to your bedroom. Heart pounding, sheets soaked in sweat, you catch your breath and try to forget about the unsettling nightmare. But according to psychologists and a professional dream analyst, there are certain dreams you should never ignore.

"Experts believe that dreams have the ability to reflect our individual experiences, desires, hopes, and fears," says psychologist Dr. Gluss, PhD. "Dreams can provide us with insight into ourselves, as well as challenge our preconceived beliefs, allowing us to explore new ways of approaching challenging issues." Keep reading to find out the five dreams that could signal bigger issues in your life.

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You're drowning or there's flooding.

Woman drowns in the sea

This could be a sign that you are in too deep in a relationship, issue, or mindset and that it has become a struggle and is making it hard for you to breathe, explains Lauri Loewenberg, a professional dream analyst.

"Ask yourself what in your life is getting increasingly worse," says Loewenberg. "It is a warning from your subconscious to find a way to alleviate the situation before it completely overtakes your life and pulls you down into a deep depression."

However, drowning and flooding dreams can also be your body's reaction to sleep apnea. "If you are overweight and get this dream frequently, I would recommend a sleep study so it can be diagnosed and treated," advises Loewenberg.

A house is on fire.

house with roof on fire
Shutterstock / sirtravelalot

If your dream features fire in any capacity, this could be a sign that you are dealing with anger or a very urgent situation.

"When the fire, in your dream, is in your house, that is a big red flag that you are on the verge of total and complete burnout," warns Loewenberg. "Your house is YOU."

"If there's an identifiable issue in your nightmares or dreams, consider identifying the source of the stress or anxiety that you are experiencing and take steps to reduce them from interfering with your day-to-day life and sleep," advises Shelby Harris, MD, a licensed clinical psychologist and director of sleep health at Sleepopolis.

Dreams with fire are also common throughout menopause and can be a reaction to your body's fluctuations in temperature, points out Loewenberg.

There's blood or bleeding.

Photo of hands holding a napkin with blood

This could be a sign that you are giving more than you're receiving. Maybe you're spending more money than you have, giving too much to someone who isn't reciprocating, or putting more effort into a job or project that isn't paying off.

"The more blood there is, the more you are being drained in real life. Just like blood, you only have a limited amount of time, money, and energy," explains Loewenberg.

"If your dreams are highlighting unresolved issues or emotions, take steps to address them," says Dr. Gluss. "This could involve seeking therapy, having a conversation with a friend or loved one, or making changes in your life to better align with your values and goals."

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You see snakes or spiders.

A redback spider, Australia's black widow, a venomous Australian native arachnid on a deck in Wonthaggi on the Bass Coast, South Gippsland, Victoria, Australia

"Dreams, whether they be nightmares or dreams-fulfilled, can often be attributed to the social causes and issues that we are exposed to every day," explains Dr. Gluss. "From racism and sexism to homophobia, toxic environments can induce nightmares in insidious ways. This can manifest itself in our dream state as recurring themes or moments of terror."

And one example is dreaming of spiders or snakes, which could mean you're dealing with a narcissist in real life. Snakes tend to represent toxic males due to their shape, while spiders often symbolize "women who spin a web of lies and trap their victims," warns Loewenberg.

"If you get snakes or spiders in your dreams, especially more than once, this is a very strong indication you've got a person in your life that is up to no good, and you need to either remove them from your life or [minimize] contact," advises Loewenberg.

The brakes don't work.

Close up of a injured and scared woman driving a car
iStock / Geber86

This can symbolize needing to slow down or stop doing something in your real life. "Your subconscious is sending you a strong message that something in your life has gotten out of control and is going to come to a messy end," notes Loewenberg. "The message of this dream: Check yourself before you wreck yourself."

If you're having dreams where your brakes don't work, try to figure out where in your life you need to slow down or stop. This could be a relationship, spending money, negative thoughts, a lie that has gotten out of control, or bad habits like drinking, smoking, or over-eating, explains Loewenberg.

While you should pay attention to these dreams you can't ignore, keep in mind, "not all dreams are similar in interpretation, and it is important to pay attention to your own intuition when understanding what your dreams may mean," says Dr. Gluss.

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