Dream Analysis: What Words Reveal about Psychotic Behavior

First Posted: Feb 04, 2014 01:39 PM EST

Doctors often struggle to diagnose difficult cases of psychological and psychiatric disorders as they may rely heavily on subjective and qualitative observations alone. As it stands, a major controversy by the publication of the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders shows how relatively no recommendations have been made to incorporate such biological evidence or more quantifiable makers for such health issues.

Yet a team of Brazilian researchers have recently demonstrated that word patterns may play a crucial role in the understanding and distinguishment of psychological issues such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder--a pair of mental disorders that are often hard to tell apart.

For the study, researchers interviewed 60 people who either had schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, along with healthy participants. They were then asked to recount a previous dream and describe instances from the account in graphs.

Patients exhibiting tendencies of schizophrenia or bipolar disorder often displayed strikingly different word graphs from each other (as displayed in panel B). More specifically, schizophrenics tended to discuss their dreams by using just a few choice words while bipolar individuals used more words excessively and repeatedly.

The study authors found that by creating word graphs from stories told by the volunteers regarding a time when they were awake created less useful results. In other words, something about describing a dream showed a great deal regarding underlying pathologies.

"The Freudian notion that 'dreams are the royal road to the unconscious' is clinically useful, after all," the researchers concluded, via a press release.

What do you think?

More information regarding the study can be found via the "Graph analysis of dream reports is especially informative about psychosis," from Scientific Reports

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