Pandemic has led to a surge in vivid, coronavirus-inspired dreams


Think of your dreams as your unconscious mind knocking on your door and calling for attention, says a US psychotherapist. — dpa

Not long after the virus pandemic dramatically changed the daily lives of San Diego, California, residents, it started taking over their nights, as well.

Like millions of others around the world, local residents have been having frequent, vivid and often disturbing dreams inspired by their anxieties about Covid-19. Type the phrase #coviddreams or #coronadreams into Twitter, and you’ll see thousands of posts by celebrities, athletes, health care workers and everyday folks sharing their strange and puzzling pandemic-fuelled dreams.

Estela Bobadilla, a San Diego psychotherapist who specialises in dream analysis, says she noticed an immediate uptick in patients reporting virus-related dreams after the stay-at-home orders began.

To respond to the sudden need, she set aside Sunday appointments just for first responders and offers free appointments to people who have lost their jobs during the pandemic.

A long-time marriage and family therapist, Bobadilla is a union, or Jungian, analyst who believes that people’s dreams deliver messages and symbols from the unconscious mind.

In times of great upheaval, like wars or pandemics, people suppress their anxieties in order to carry on with their daily lives. But those thoughts rest like seeds in the unconscious mind where they “grow like little plants, always seeking the light” in dreams.

“Usually, I tell people to think of their dreams as their unconscious knocking on your door. If you don’t pay attention, they’ll knock a little louder. Then they’ll bang on the door because they need your attention, ” Bobadilla says.

One couple who are first responders came to Bobadilla for counselling after they both experienced dreams about their child being in danger.

They had sent their child to live with family during quarantine to avoid the chance of infection, and their fears were showing up in their dreams. “A lot of the dreams people are having are about Covid-19. They’re scared, ” Bobadilla says. “Then we figure out it’s their inner child that’s in danger.”

The phenomenon of coronavirus dreams has become so universal that Harvard University is conducting a large-scale survey on pandemic dreams. Deirdre Barrett, an assistant professor of psychology in the psychiatry department at Harvard Medical School, has gathered responses on more than 6,000 dreams.

In an interview for The Harvard Gazette recently, Barrett says she has seen a large number of responses from people who dream of getting Covid-19. She also has seen “dozens and dozens and dozens” of dream stories where people were attacked by bugs, cockroaches, worms, grasshoppers and bed bugs, all of which likely represent the virus.

Ryan Fahey says he’s been troubled lately by a recurring nightmare where either ninjas are chasing him or some invisible, ominous presence is coming towards him. Sometimes the dreams are so bad, he leaps out of bed and runs into the closet before he’s fully awake.

Fahey, 40, has been working long hours lately as the digital marketing director for Aya Healthcare in San Diego, which is now sending travelling nurses to hospitals across the United States dealing with Covid-19 cases.

But Bobadilla says dreams about approaching negative forces aren’t necessarily pandemic-related. They can be about anxiety when someone either changes careers, finishes college or reaches middle age and is questioning who they are and where they’re going.

Alexis Apostolidis works for a special events entertainment company in San Diego. All of her company’s jobs were cancelled when the pandemic began. After that, she began having dreams about President Donald Trump showing up at a meticulously planned event and causing chaos.

Bobadilla says Trump is a frequent figure in people’s dreams. As president, he symbolically represents the ultimate authority figure overseeing the ruling principles that guide our lives. But normal processes have broken down during the pandemic, and Trump’s response to the crisis may have inspired Apostolidis’ dreams, she says.

Susan Farese, a retired nurse who now runs a communications firm in San Diego, says when the pandemic began she had dreams about how she would organise her home if family members contracted the virus.

She also had dreams about placing a clock on the wall in her home.

Bobadilla says clocks in dreams often represent cycles of life, meaning births, deaths, marriages and divorces. After hearing Bobadilla’s analysis, Farese says it made sense, because she has lost four family members in the past years and another is fighting stage 4 cancer.

Because Bobadilla enjoys the process of interpreting dreams, she holds group sessions once or twice a month that are open to the public. She also encourages the public to email her their corona dream experiences, and she will offer her interpretations on her blog at

Most of the dreams that people have are not scary and are quickly forgotten. But when clients are troubled by a recurring scary dream, she tells them the best way to stop it from coming back is to write it down after they wake up. That sends the unconscious a signal that its message has been received.

“That would be the equivalent of looking through a peephole, ” she said, “and usually the unconscious will back off.” – dpa/Pam Kragen

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Pandemic , coronavirus , Covid-19 , dreams


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