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Am J Psychiatry. 1992 May;149(5):659-63.

Changes in chronic nightmares after one session of desensitization or rehearsal instructions.

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  • 1Department of Psychiatry, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque.



The purpose of this study was to examine the effects of one session of instructions on the frequency of chronic nightmares and on self-rated distress.


Twenty-eight volunteers with chronic nightmares (mean duration = 19 years) were treated with either one session of desensitization with instructions on how to practice this treatment or with one session of instructions to change the nightmare and how to rehearse the new version. The authors administered four scales of the SCL-90 and the corresponding scales of the Symptom Questionnaire.


At 7-month follow-up of 23 patients, there was a significant reduction in the frequency of nightmares and significant decreases in self-rated depression, anxiety, and hostility. There were no significant differences between the effects of the two types of treatment. In four patients, whose mean duration of nightmares was 23 years, the nightmares ceased.


The results of this preliminary study suggests that the instructions given to the patients reduced the frequency of their chronic nightmares and decreased their self-rated distress.

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