Dreaming About War: What Does It Mean?

Have you recently been dreaming about war? We discuss seven possible meanings of this kind of dream.
Dreaming About War: What Does It Mean?

Last update: 29 November, 2022

There’s nothing definitive when it comes to dreams. Some are pleasant, and some are sad. There are abstract and realistic ones. Dreaming of war is among the latter and is often an experience that, despite not being real, generates feelings of real discomfort, tension, and stress in the dreamer.

Indeed, dreaming of war certainly isn’t considered to be one of the most pleasant dreams. Furthermore, when it’s a recurring dream, it can cause unease.

Today, we look at the main meanings of dreaming of war, taking, as a starting point, the experiences of your day-to-day.

Dreaming about war

Recent studies have validated the continuity hypothesis. This means that dreams are a continuation of experiences that people have had in their waking life. Therefore, reality and dreams are two sides of the same coin, only that in the second case the experiences are manifested in a more amplified, fanciful, and free way.

To interpret episodes of dreaming about war, you must have wakefulness as a starting point. This means that the symbolism and meaning of your dreams are extremely personal to you. However, this doesn’t mean we can’t draw general hypotheses.

Let’s look at seven possible explanations for dreaming about war.

Sleeping woman
If you’ve been repeatedly exposed to sources of stress in recent days, or in the past, the answer to dreaming about war may be found there.

1. Post-traumatic stress disorder

Some studies and research have found that dreaming about war is relatively common in people with post-traumatic stress disorder. You don’t have to have been directly involved in a war. In fact, any experience that’s caused you great stress in the past or present can lead to this kind of dreamlike experience.

We’re all on a different spectrum when it comes to degrees of tolerance to stress. Situations that for some are routine, for others might lead to a considerable increase in their cortisol levels.

2. Conflicts and tension with friends and family

War is synonymous with conflict and tension. Therefore, the dream experience can refer to episodes of conflict or high tension with friends or family. In this case, the dream is alluding to situations in your own environment that are impacting you so much that they’re beginning to be reflected in your dreams.

The conflict can be physical, verbal, and emotional. Your role in your dream war is the role you’re playing in the reality of that conflict. For example, you might be a mere spectator, actively participating, or being attacked yourself. If this is the case, assess your landscape while you’re awake to try and manage the problem in the best way.

3. You have a chaotic life

One of the first images that come to us when we think about war is disorder. We think of debris, noise, disaster, death, and chaos.

Taking into account this symbology, it’s likely that your dream refers to a current moment of disorder in your life.

Clutter can manifest itself in many ways: in your diet, your health, the way you organize your daily routine, the management of your free time, your finances, your interpersonal relationships, and many more.

Check what control you have in all these areas and reflect on whether you’re dreaming about war due to your own disorderly and chaotic situation.

4. You’ve lost a loved one

Thinking of war is also thinking of death. Thousands, and sometimes millions, of soldiers and civilians, die in war. Therefore, dreaming about war can allude to the recent loss of a loved one. It could even be the loss of a pet.

Many of those who die in war do so in unexpected circumstances or are innocent victims. If the death of your loved one was particularly traumatic or unexpected, it’ll have affected you more intensely. In fact, the death of someone close affects you in many ways, so it’s hardly surprising that it can influence your dreams as well.

5. You’re in the middle of a conflict

You don’t necessarily need to be participating in it, you might just be a spectator on the sidelines. However, when you’re in a situation of this type, you always fear that the outcome of the conflict will also impact you.

This symbology is strongest if, in your dream, you’re a civilian trying to flee war or are caught up in it.

Worried woman in meeting with arguing office people.
Dreaming of a war can indicate that you’re experiencing a conflictive situation.

6. You’re dealing with an internal battle

All our previous explanations have come from the basis of external circumstances. In this case, though, we suggest you consider possible internal conflicts and problems. For example, depression and anxiety. Dealing with these disorders is a kind of war, one that also pushes you to the limits to win.

7. You’re having second thoughts about a choice you’re afraid to make

Dreaming of war can also mean that you’re having doubts when making a choice. After all, war is a chain of decisions, made from above.

If you’re having to make a really important decision that’ll change the course of your life and those around you, your mind may be preparing you for the experience.

All of these interpretations apply to different kinds of dreams of war. They could involve a civil war, military war, World War III, World War II, a zombie war, etc.

Finally, we reiterate that the symbolisms given are only referential. It’s down to you to work out to what extent they fit in with your own day-to-day life.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Adams-Silvan A, Silvan M. “A dream is the fulfillment of a wish’: traumatic dream, repetition compulsion, and the pleasure principle. Int J Psychoanal. 1990;71 ( Pt 3):513-22.
  • Fogli A, Maria Aiello L, Quercia D. Our dreams, our selves: automatic analysis of dream reports. R Soc Open Sci. 2020;7(8):192080. Published 2020 Aug 26.
  • Schreuder BJ, van Egmond M, Kleijn WC, Visser AT. Daily reports of posttraumatic nightmares and anxiety dreams in Dutch war victims. J Anxiety Disord. 1998 Nov-Dec;12(6):511-24.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.