Fight Or Flight: What It Really Means When You Dream About Being Chased

Whether it's a car speeding after you down a dark alley, a lion on your tail in the Serengeti, or a stranger forcing you to run until you can't catch your breath, dreams about being chased are stressful. The sensation of intense fear and adrenaline that you'll often feel in the face of these dreams is actually a clue as to what they might mean.

Though dream interpretations can vary wildly depending on who you ask, it seems that most modern experts agree that dreaming of fleeing is related to increased anxiety in your waking life. The specifics of the dream may reveal more about what kind of anxiety you're feeling, though. Being chased by a stranger is likely to indicate that you don't actually know what is causing your anxiety, while running from an animal can signify that you're running from a particular problem, which that animal symbolizes.

The psychiatrist and psychoanalyst Carl Jung believed that dreams contain symbols for things happening in our lives, and in the case of being chased, the pursuer simply symbolizes something or someone who "wants to come to you" (via Dreams). So it's possible that there is something headed your way in life causing you such feelings of stress that your emotions are filtering through to your dreams. 

How chase dreams relate to anxiety

Chase dreams are thought to be related to anxiety in life because anxiety tends to lead to nightmares, according to Healthline. Most chase dreams can be classified as types of nightmares, as you'll often be running away from something unpleasant that you really don't want to catch you.

2019 research published in Brain Science Advances found that a person's dreams are thought to be influenced by what's going on in their life. So if you feel anxious about something, whether it's a one-off situation or an ongoing feeling, it is likely to manifest into your dream in the form of something stressful, like being chased.

Psych Central explains that being chased is just one of several common "stress dreams" that cause feelings of distress to the dreamer, other classic examples including dreaming of your teeth falling out or natural disasters.

"Our brains are deeply imaginative and creative, and stress dreams are one way our minds process worries overnight," licensed clinical mental health counsellor Dr. Cynthia Briggs told the website. "They are the leftover odds and ends we haven't quite resolved during the daytime."

While the odd stress dream here or there is nothing to be concerned about, dreaming about being chased recurringly can signify that there's an ongoing source of stress in your life that needs to be dealt with.

Recurring chase dreams

A one-off stress dream usually means that you felt fleeting moments of stress during your day, whether it's because someone played a prank on you or you couldn't find your car keys. But if you're constantly dreaming about being chased, Healthline states that it may mean you are worried about something coming up in your life or are feeling smothered by your responsibilities.

Recurring chase dreams may also signify that you're avoiding something, and the dream is your subconscious mind's way of encouraging you to face the problem. "The degree to which you are being chased gives a clear indication of the degree to which you are avoiding an issue that needs to be addressed," psychotherapist Matthew Bowes tells Refinery29. "Perhaps you've been risk-avoidant, or you've held back on confronting something which is uncomfortable or frightening," he adds.

If you are experiencing frequent chase dreams, it can help to keep a dream journal. As soon as you wake up, write down as many specifics as you can remember: who was chasing you, what the surroundings looked like, and how the dream ended. These details may give you clues as to what you're avoiding, or alternatively, what situation is causing you stress. Only once you've identified the source of this anxiety can you deal with it in your waking life and return to peaceful sleep.