Nightmares are a terrifying symptom of PTSD. Sometimes the nightmares are direct representations of the abuse or trauma. Sometimes the nightmares are a jumble of pieces and parts of the traumatic event. Sometimes the nightmares represent the trauma only in its emotional tone. The nightmares often represent unprocessed emotional material from a traumatic event. The cure for nightmares is prolonged exposure therapy which cannot be done without a trained therapist. However, some management is possible to limit the after affect of the nightmare.
The following exercises are often helpful for people that have night-mares:
1. You can write about the nightmare in vivid detail as soon as you wake up. Keep a note book or laptop by your bed.
2. Have a list of five of the things that you do not like to do. You must be able to do them at night without disturbing the rest of your household. When you wake up start with the one that you like to do the least. After you complete it go back to bed. If you are not asleep in 10-15 minutes get back up and do the next thing on the list.
3. Read a boring book if you are able to concentrate.
These exercises may help in alleviating the distress of the nightmares. There are some medications that are helpful in suppressing nightmares, but individuals suffering with PTSD are vulnerable to abusing or becoming addicted to some of these medications to escape the awful feelings that accompany traumatic events. Therefore, I recommend skills, carefully managed and monitored medication use along with prolonged exposure treatment when you are ready.