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Nightmares are a common complaint among people suffering from PTSD and, in fact, are one of the criteria used for the diagnosis of the disorder. A University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine study, published in 2009 in “Sleep Medicine Clinics,” found that 80 percent of people experiencing PTSD have frequent nightmares. A 1998 study that analyzed data from the National Vietnam Veterans Readjustment Study found that regular nightmares were reported by 52 percent of combat veterans but only by 3 percent of civilian participants. Not only are nightmares more common in those with PTSD, they are more frequent, sometimes occurring several times a week.
Post-traumatic nightmares often involve elements similar to the trauma itself, according to the National Center for PTSD of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. About half of the people who have nightmares after a traumatic event have nightmares that replay the trauma. Those with PTSD are much more likely to have exact replays of their trauma.
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