NYMC Faculty Publications

Manifest Dream Content as a Predictor of Suicidality

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Psychodynamic Psychiatry

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Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences


A number of behavioral, social, biological, and cultural factors are associated with suicide. However, the ability to predict an imminent suicide attempt remains problematic. Prior studies indicate that the manifest dream content of depressed, non-suicidal patients differs from that of depressed, suicidal patients. The dream imagery of depressed, suicidal patients contains themes of death, dying, violence, and departure. The dream imagery of depressed, non-suicidal patients contains themes of rejection, helplessness, hopelessness, humiliation, failure, and loss. In the present study, the dream reports of 52 depressed patients were collected and rated for various themes. Patients were divided into three groups: Depressed and non-suicidal; Depressed, with suicidal ideation; Depressed, with suicidal ideation and/or attempt(s). Themes of death and/or dying, and to a lesser extent, themes of violence, injury, and/or murder occurred with greater frequency in the dream reports of depressed patients with suicidal ideation and/or attempts, than in the dream reports of depressed patients without suicidal ideation or behavior. These observations correspond with the prevailing psychodynamic explanation of suicide; namely, that it is a murderous attack on the self that is identified with hated internalized objects.

Publisher's Statement

Originally published in Psychodynamic Psychiatry, 45 (2), 175-185. The original material can be found here.