What Does It Mean to Dream of Suffocating?

What Does It Mean to Dream of Suffocating?

Suffocating can be a particularly terrifying way to die, so a dream of suffocating could be correspondingly unpleasant.

The good news is that you can wake up from a dream of suffocating and learn to interpret its symbolism. This may show you what needs to be corrected in your life.

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Suffocating Dream Summary

Suffocating Dream Symbolism

Suffocating is what happens when your body cannot get the air it needs to sustain life. If the more important part of your suffocation dream was that you died, as opposed to how it happened, the general symbolism of death and dying dreams may be relevant. This includes endings and transformations, as well as situations where you feel like you lack control.

If the more important part of your dream was the act of suffocation specifically, it may be necessary to look at the symbolism of air. Air is the breath of life, and life at its fullest is creative and a bit chaotic. A suffocation dream could therefore refer to a situation where someone is trying so hard to make things orderly that they wind up suppressing spontaneity that is actually needed.

In the symbolic language of astrology, air refers to matters of the intellect. A suffocation dream could symbolize that, while other areas of your life may be running smoothly enough, you lack intellectual stimulation or freedom of expression.

Common Suffocating Dreams

  1. Dream of suffocating as a result of an illness
  2. Dream of suffocating by drowning
  3. Dream of suffocating by strangulation
  4. Dream of suffocating someone else
  5. Dream of committing suicide by suffocation

Suffocating Dream Symbolism

Suffocating Dream Symbolism


A dream of suffocating can symbolize that you are overwhelmed by your responsibilities in your work or elsewhere. You may not know how to get everything done, and you also may not see any way out of your challenges, though living under a load of burdens this crushing is no life.

If you actually get to the point of dying in a suffocation dream of this sort, that could be a good thing, as it could indicate an end to your burdens. While hopefully that is something other than actually dying in waking life, sometimes situations like this have to get to a point of total breakdown before anyone is willing to help you resolve them.

Toxic Relationship

A dream of suffocating may symbolize that you are in an unhealthy relationship with another person. Sometimes a person who is overbearing and controlling can be described as suffocating, as they do tend to suck the air out of a room with their obvious bullying behavior.

Another type of suffocating relationship, however, can be with a person who comes off as very weak and very dependent on you. Even if they are not obviously mean to you, you might feel like this person will meet some terrible fate if you do not constantly take care of them, and this pressure of feeling totally responsible for them can be suffocating.

Inability to Express Yourself

Air can come out of your mouth, and so can speech. A dream of being suffocated can sometimes be more about speech than about air. It may symbolize that you feel like you cannot express yourself because you are afraid that someone will punish you if you say what is really on your mind.

An atmosphere where people are unwilling to talk for fear of judgment becomes very quiet, so suffocation would be a fair description of what happens. This environment may be peaceful in the way that the grave is a peaceful slumber. If you want to experience life, you might need to become more willing to get hurt once in a while.

Too Much Practicality

A dream of suffocating could happen in a situation where your physical needs are met, but you are focused on your physical needs to the exclusion of anything else. Your life might check all the boxes, but something is missing, and that is room to breathe.

The provocation for a dream of suffocating could include a schedule that is rigidly planned down to the second, where there is no room for any sort of spontaneity. Such a dream may show that you need to make room for some unstructured time in your life, even if you have to intentionally schedule it.

Common Suffocating Dreams

Dream of suffocating as a result of an illness

Dream of suffocating as a result of an illness

Some medical conditions that affect the lungs can cause suffocation. If you already have a chronic medical condition of this sort, dreaming of suffocating could reflect your anxiety about the possibility of your own medical condition getting worse.

If there is someone in your life who has a medical condition involving their lungs, or if you work in healthcare and treat patients with such conditions, you may tend to see corresponding symptoms in every twinge you have yourself. Your dream of suffocating could come from this kind of anxiety.

COVID-19 can cause death by suffocation, as people with severe cases become unable to breathe. News coverage of the pandemic has emphasized this part of the disease, talking about patients being treated with supplemental oxygen and ventilators, so anxiety about COVID-19 could be enough to provoke a dream of suffocation.

Dream of suffocating by drowning

Dream of suffocating by drowning

Water dream symbolism generally has to do with emotions. A dream of suffocating by drowning in water could therefore symbolize that you feel overwhelmed by emotions.

As noted in flood dream symbolism, the novel Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll has a famous scene where Alice, overwhelmed by the bizarre changes that have happened to her, cries so much that she nearly drowns in her own tears. A dream of suffocating by drowning could similarly suggest that your own intense emotions are interfering with your ability to go about your life. You may not know how to rationally get a grip on things.

Alternately, a dream of suffocating under water could mean that someone else in your life has emotions that are out of control. Whether or not this person is intentionally trying to harm you, you might feel like you have gotten pulled into their emotional storm, and you don’t know how to get out. You may feel responsible for fixing whatever they are upset about yet unable to fix it.

Dream of suffocating by strangulation

Dream of suffocating by strangulation

If you dream that someone suffocates you by strangling you, this could symbolize that you feel your freedom is restricted by another person in your life. If the person who strangles you in your dream is someone you know in waking life, the dream could refer to issues specifically in your relationship with them.

If you are strangled by a stranger in your dream, you could reflect on whether they remind you of anyone you know. Strangers in your dream can also represent parts of yourself, so this could symbolize an internal conflict where one part of you is oppressing another.

In the United States, suffocation by strangling has been a factor in some well-known cases of police brutality that also involved racial injustice, so a dream of suffocation by strangling could also refer to concerns about those issues.

Dream of suffocating someone else

Dream of suffocating someone else

In general, a dream of killing someone could symbolize that you want to kill off some part of yourself that they represent. It could also symbolize that you have unresolved anger toward them, especially if it is someone you know in waking life and know you have issues with.

Of all the methods for killing someone, suffocation is less likely to leave a bloody mess than something like using a knife or gun. This could, in turn, make it less likely that the killer would get caught. Going through this thought process in your dream could suggest that you have a calculated approach to whatever situation you are dealing with.

If your dream did not include a clear thought process as to why you suffocated the other person, this could symbolize that you are aware on some level that you overwhelm them or are overstepping their boundaries.

Dream of committing suicide by suffocation

Dream of committing suicide by suffocation

As discussed in suicide dream symbolism, a suicide dream in general can have to do with asserting yourself to intentionally initiate a change in your life, in the sense that the old you has to die for the new you to be reborn.

If you picked the specific suicide method of suffocation in your dream, that could symbolize wanting to minimize mess for others to clean up, as it would at least not leave a lot of blood like committing suicide with a knife or gun. While it can be disruptive for the people you are close with when you make a change in your life, sometimes you may be able to take steps to minimize the collateral damage.


A dream of suffocating generally indicates that some circumstance in your surroundings is oppressive to the flow of life. Identifying the problem through analysis of your dream can be the first step to correcting it.

Eva Sylwester

Eva Sylwester has been fascinated with the interpretation of dreams since middle school. She got a B.A. in psychology and religious studies from the University of Oregon in 2007. After that, she began exploring astrology and other new frontiers in spirituality. In her approach, the goal of dream interpretation is to help the dreamer articulate their own intuition. She lives in Eugene, Oregon, United States.

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