Is there a reason why people dream of demons, ghosts, and other scary creatures? More specifically:
What factors cause frequent nightmares to occur?
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Nightmares can be defined as (Pagel, 2000):
...vivid and terrifying nocturnal episodes in which the dreamer is abruptly awakened from sleep. Typically, the dreamer wakes from REM sleep and is able to describe a detailed, associative, often bizarre dream plot. Usually, the dreamer has difficulty returning to sleep.
Nightmares are common and can be a normal reaction to stress. Frequent occurrence of nightmares, however, may become a disorder when it impairs the sufferer's everyday life and may then be referred to as Nightmare Disorder (formerly Dream Anxiety Disorder) or "repeated nightmares," which is a term defined more specifically as a series of nightmares with a recurring theme (source: Psychology Today).
Nightmare disorder is defined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) as:
[R]epeated awakenings with recollection of terrifying dreams, usually involving threats to survival, safety or physical integrity.