Nightmares, Night Terrors, And Scam Victim Trauma

Helping Scam Victims Better Understand Their Trauma

Scam Victim Recovery Psychology

•  Vianey Gonzalez B.Sc(Psych) – Psychologist, Certified Deception Professional, Psychology Advisory Panel & Director of the Society of Citizens Against Relationship Scams Inc.
•  Tim McGuinness, Ph.D. – Anthropologist, Scientist, Director of the Society of Citizens Against Relationship Scams Inc.

About This Article

Scam victims often find themselves haunted by nightmares and night terrors, grappling with the aftermath of betrayal and deception in the safety of their sleep.

These nocturnal disturbances serve as vivid manifestations of the trauma inflicted upon them, plunging them into a state of primal dread as they confront the specter of past experiences. Night terrors, characterized by intense fear and confusion, add another layer of complexity to the already fraught landscape of scam-related trauma, leaving victims disoriented and distressed upon awakening.

While nightmares and night terrors may not always be directly connected to traumatic memories, they are often manifestations of unresolved emotional distress, particularly in individuals with a history of trauma or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Seeking professional support and incorporating practical strategies for coping with nightmares can help scam victims reclaim a sense of safety and tranquility in their sleep, facilitating their journey toward healing and recovery from the betrayal trauma of a scam.

SCARS Scam Victim Support & Recovery Program

Scam Victim Nightmares and Night Terrors, and How They Relate to Their Trauma

Understanding Scam Victim Nightmares: Scam Victims and the Trauma Connection

Nightmares and night terrors can transform the sanctuary of sleep into a battleground for those who have fallen victim to scams. Behind closed eyelids, scam victims confront the haunting specters of deception, loss, and betrayal in their dreams. For scam victims, these nocturnal disturbances are not merely random figments of imagination but harbingers of trauma echoing through the corridors of their subconscious.

What are Night Terrors?

Night terrors, also known as sleep terrors, are episodes of intense fear, screaming, and even flailing while asleep.

They typically occur during non-REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, usually within the first few hours after falling asleep. Night terrors can be alarming for both the individual experiencing them and anyone witnessing the episode.

Unlike nightmares, which often involve vivid dreams that can be recalled upon waking, individuals experiencing night terrors usually have no memory of the event afterward. The lack of memory may be the mind coping with the experience, but they return the following night or any time in the future.

Night terrors are most common in children but can also occur in adults, often associated with factors such as stress (such as stress caused by trauma,) sleep deprivation, or certain medications. While night terrors can be distressing, they are generally considered harmless and tend to resolve on their own over time. However, in cases where night terrors significantly disrupt sleep or pose safety concerns, medical intervention may be necessary.

The Trauma Connection

Scam victims often find themselves suffering the effects of betrayal trauma. Whether it’s the devastation of financial loss, the erosion of trust, or the shattering of their sense of security, the impact of scam experiences can reverberate long after the initial deception. These traumatic encounters weave themselves into the fabric of victims’ lives, leaving an indelible mark on their psyche for months or even years to come, unless victims learn to manage that trauma.

However, night terrors are not believed to be inherently connected to trauma or traumatic memories in all cases, though research seems incomplete. They are more commonly associated with disruptions in the sleep cycle, such as incomplete transitions between sleep stages. However, in some instances, night terrors can be linked to trauma or traumatic experiences that the individual may have completely blocked.

Of course, trauma can affect sleep patterns and contribute to sleep disturbances, including night terrors, especially in individuals with deep trauma or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or other trauma-related conditions.

Additionally, traumatic memories or unresolved emotional issues may manifest during sleep in the form of night terrors, nightmares, or related sleep disorders. In these cases, addressing the underlying trauma through therapy coupled with support, or other interventions may help alleviate the frequency or severity of night terrors.

It’s essential for individuals experiencing night terrors or nightmares alongside trauma-related symptoms to seek professional support to address their specific needs and promote better sleep and overall well-being.

Nightmares: The Aftermath of Deception

Nightmares serve as the nocturnal manifestations of unresolved trauma, playing out scenes of victimization with vivid clarity. For scam survivors, sleep becomes a battleground where they are forced to relive the anguish of their past encounters. The subconscious mind dredges up memories of fraudulent schemes, financial ruin, and shattered trust, thrusting victims back into the throes of their ordeal.

Night terrors add another layer of complexity to the already fraught landscape of scam-related trauma. Characterized by sudden awakenings accompanied by intense fear and confusion, these episodes plunge victims into a state of primal dread. The darkness of night becomes a breeding ground for their deepest fears, as they grapple with fragmented memories and unresolved emotions lurking in the recesses of their mind.

Are Nightmares or Night Terrors Common in Scam Victims

It is common for people who have experienced significant trauma to have nightmares or night terrors.

Trauma can profoundly impact sleep patterns and lead to disturbances in the normal sleep cycle. Nightmares and night terrors are also often manifestations of unresolved emotional distress or traumatic memories. Individuals with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are particularly prone to experiencing nightmares, which can vividly replay aspects of the traumatic event and lead to sleep disturbances and daytime distress.

Night terrors, characterized by intense fear and confusion during sleep, may also occur in individuals with a history of trauma, although they are more commonly associated with childhood and may persist into adulthood in some cases – perhaps being unresolved or unmanaged childhood trauma?

Addressing the underlying trauma through therapy, medication, support, and other interventions can help reduce the frequency and intensity of nightmares and night terrors, improving overall sleep quality and psychological well-being.

Practical Steps to Reduce Nightmares

Recovering from the trauma of a scam can be a challenging journey, especially when nightmares disrupt sleep and exacerbate distress.

Here are some practical steps scam victims can take to help reduce nightmares and improve sleep quality:

  • Establish a Consistent Sleep Routine: Maintaining a regular sleep schedule can help regulate the body’s internal clock and promote better sleep quality. Aim to go to bed and wake up at the same time each day, even on weekends.
  • Create a Relaxing Bedtime Routine: Engage in calming activities before bed to signal to your body that it’s time to wind down. This may include reading a book, practicing relaxation techniques like deep breathing or meditation, or taking a warm bath.
  • Do NOT Read About Scams or Scammers Late at Night Before Bed: Spend time learning about scams, scammers, and their effects on scam victims during the day or at least several hours before bedtime.
  • Create a Comfortable Sleep Environment: Make your bedroom conducive to sleep by keeping it cool, dark, and quiet. Invest in a comfortable mattress and pillows, and consider using white noise machines or earplugs to block out any disruptive sounds.
  • Limit Exposure to Triggers Before Bed: Avoid watching or reading news about scams or engaging in activities that may trigger anxiety before bedtime. Instead, focus on activities that promote relaxation and positive emotions.
  • Practice Stress Management Techniques: Incorporate stress-reducing activities into your daily routine, such as exercise, yoga, or mindfulness meditation. These practices can help alleviate anxiety and promote better sleep.
  • Seek Professional Help: If nightmares persist and significantly impact your daily functioning, consider seeking help from a mental health professional experienced in treating trauma-related sleep disturbances. Therapy modalities like cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) or eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) therapy can be effective in addressing trauma-related nightmares.
  • Consult Your Doctor About Medication: In some cases, short-term use of medication may be prescribed to help manage nightmares and improve sleep quality. However, it’s essential to discuss the potential benefits and risks with a healthcare provider before starting any medication regimen, even if it is a vitamin or herbal supplement.
  • Connect with Supportive Others: Sharing your experiences with trusted friends, family members, or support groups can provide validation, comfort, and a sense of belonging. Talking about your feelings and receiving support from others, such as in a SCARS Support & Recovery Group,  can help alleviate feelings of isolation and distress.
  • Practice Self-Care: Engage in activities that bring you joy and fulfillment, whether it’s spending time with loved ones, pursuing hobbies, or enjoying nature. Taking care of your physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being is essential for overall recovery.
  • Be Patient and Persistent: Recovery from the betrayal trauma of a scam takes time, and progress may be gradual. Be patient with yourself and acknowledge that healing is a journey with ups and downs. Stay committed to self-care practices and seek support when needed.

By incorporating these practical steps into their daily life, scam victims can take proactive measures to reduce nightmares and improve sleep quality as they navigate the recovery process from scam-related trauma. Remember that healing is possible, and they deserve support and compassion on their journey toward recovery.

Tips to Help Recover from Nightmares After Waking

Experiencing a nightmare triggered by traumatic memories or stress can be incredibly distressing for scam victims when they awake. The fear or other emotions can persist after awakening leaving the scam victim disoriented and in a state of panic or anxiety.

Here are some tips to help re-center and calm oneself after waking up from such a nightmare:

  • Immediately After:

    • Practice Deep Breathing: Take slow, deep breaths to help regulate your nervous system and reduce feelings of anxiety or panic. Inhale deeply through your nose, hold for a few seconds, and exhale slowly through your mouth.
    • Grounding Techniques: Engage your senses to ground yourself in the present moment. Focus on the sensation of your feet on the floor, the texture of your bed sheets, or the sound of your own voice as you speak soothing words to yourself.
    • Have a Safety Token: Have an object that will immediately remind you that you are safe and that the experience is over. It might be a photo of your children, your dog or cat, or something else that brings you joy or reminds you of a pleasant memory.
    • Engage in Relaxation Techniques: Use relaxation techniques such as progressive muscle relaxation, guided imagery, or visualization to help calm your body and mind. Focus on releasing tension from different parts of your body and visualize yourself in a peaceful and safe environment.
    • Use Positive Affirmations: Repeat comforting and reassuring affirmations to yourself, such as “I am safe,” “This too shall pass,” or “I am resilient.” SCARS recommends “I am a survivor, It was not my fault, I am not alone, and Axios.” Remind yourself that the nightmare is not real and that you are in a safe environment.
  • Stabilizing for the Day

    • Seek Comfort: Reach out to a support group you belong to, a trusted friend or family member, or a pet for comfort and support. Sharing your experience with someone who cares about you can help alleviate feelings of isolation and fear.
    • Practice Self-Compassion: Be gentle and compassionate with yourself as you navigate the emotional aftermath of the nightmare. Recognize that it’s normal to feel shaken and overwhelmed and permit yourself to take things at your own pace.
    • Engage in Self-Care Activities: Take care of yourself by engaging in activities that bring you comfort and relaxation, such as taking a warm bath, listening to soothing music, or practicing gentle yoga or stretching exercises.
  • Helping to Prepare for the Next One

    • Write in a Journal: Consider writing down your thoughts and feelings in a journal to process your experience and gain clarity. Expressing yourself through writing can be cathartic and help you make sense of your emotions.
    • Create a Safety Plan: If nightmares are a recurring problem, develop a safety plan to help you feel more secure and prepared. This may include techniques for calming yourself during a nightmare, such as focusing on your breathing or using grounding techniques.
    • Seek Professional Support: If nightmares persist or significantly impact your daily functioning, consider seeking support from a therapist or counselor experienced in treating trauma-related symptoms. Therapy can provide you with coping strategies and tools to manage nightmares and process traumatic memories in a safe and supportive environment.

Remember that healing from trauma takes time, and it’s okay to seek help and support along the way. Scam victims need to be patient and compassionate with themselves as they navigate the recovery process, and know that they are not alone.


The link between nightmares, night terrors, and scam-related trauma is unmistakable. These sleep disturbances serve as poignant reminders of the psychological wounds inflicted by fraudulent schemes. The trauma of being deceived, betrayed, groomed, manipulated, and exploited leaves an indelible imprint on victims’ subconscious, manifesting itself in the form of unsettling dreams and nocturnal terror.

By acknowledging the profound connection between trauma and sleep disturbances, scam victims can obtain support, turn the tide against deception and reclaim the tranquility of their sleep.

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PLEASE NOTE: Psychology Clarification

The following specific modalities within the practice of psychology are restricted to psychologists appropriately trained in the use of such modalities:

  • Diagnosis: The diagnosis of mental, emotional, or brain disorders and related behaviors.
  • Psychoanalysis: Psychoanalysis is a type of therapy that focuses on helping individuals to understand and resolve unconscious conflicts.
  • Hypnosis: Hypnosis is a state of trance in which individuals are more susceptible to suggestion. It can be used to treat a variety of conditions, including anxiety, depression, and pain.
  • Biofeedback: Biofeedback is a type of therapy that teaches individuals to control their bodily functions, such as heart rate and blood pressure. It can be used to treat a variety of conditions, including stress, anxiety, and pain.
  • Behavioral analysis: Behavioral analysis is a type of therapy that focuses on changing individuals’ behaviors. It is often used to treat conditions such as autism and ADHD.
    Neuropsychology: Neuropsychology is a type of psychology that focuses on the relationship between the brain and behavior. It is often used to assess and treat cognitive impairments caused by brain injuries or diseases.

SCARS and the members of the SCARS Team do not engage in any of the above modalities in relationship to scam victims. SCARS is not a mental healthcare provider and recognizes the importance of professionalism and separation between its work and that of the licensed practice of psychology.

SCARS is an educational provider of generalized self-help information that individuals can use for their own benefit to achieve their own goals related to emotional trauma. SCARS recommends that all scam victims see professional counselors or therapists to help them determine the suitability of any specific information or practices that may help them.

SCARS cannot diagnose or treat any individuals, nor can it state the effectiveness of any educational information that it may provide, regardless of its experience in interacting with traumatized scam victims over time. All information that SCARS provides is purely for general educational purposes to help scam victims become aware of and better understand the topics and to be able to dialog with their counselors or therapists.

It is important that all readers understand these distinctions and that they apply the information that SCARS may publish at their own risk, and should do so only after consulting a licensed psychologist or mental healthcare provider.


The opinions of the author are not necessarily those of the Society of Citizens Against Rleationship Scams Inc. The author is solely responsible for the content of their work. SCARS is protected under the Communications Decency Act (CDA) section 230 from liability.







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