Some people believe that dreams can predict the future. In the case of people suffering from obsessive compulsive disorder, that may be true - with a caveat. More intense dreams can predict exacerbated compulsions the next day.

A study conducted by researchers at Hong Kong Shue Yan University examined the relationship between dreams and the reality of 594 individuals with obsessive compulsive disorder. The researchers found that certain types of dreams exacerbated symptoms and compulsions the following day, particularly dreams charged with feelings of anger, guilt, and shame. Researchers also found that dreams characterized by magical thinking, or thoughts of having a superpower or being able to control the behavior of others, also increased the symptoms of OCD.

According to Calvin Kai-Ching Yu, one of the study authors, unhappy dreams can cause the person to attempt to purify himself or herself when he or she wakes up the next morning. Feeling angry, ashamed, or guilty may prompt an individual to remove the negative feelings when they are awake. Because the anxiety may be exacerbated by these intensely negative dreams, it can cause an increased amount of compulsions.

This finding may also explain why many obsessions and compulsions begin during childhood. During adolescence, magical thinking is generally the strongest, usually because children's level of imagination is so high. Unfortunately, Yu said in a statement, people with OCD grow up and become unable to distinguish between magical thinking and reality, prompting feelings of paranoia and other heightened anxiety.

Obsessive-compulsive disorder is a type of anxiety disorder marked by unwanted or repeated thoughts, feelings, ideas, and behaviors, which are also known as compulsions. Often the person has compulsions that he or she needs to act out in order to relieve the anxiety, but the tension relief is generally temporary. However, not acting out the compulsions can lead to great anxiety.