What Can I Do To Help Myself
Remind yourself that the worst is over.
Tell yourself out loud that you are having a flashback. The feelings and sensations you are experiencing are memories of the past. You are now processing those painful memories, which is difficult and frightening work.
When we get frightened we stop normal breathing. As a result, our body begins to panic because we dont get enough oxygen. Lack of oxygen causes even more panic. You may experience pounding in the head, tightness, sweating, feeling faint, shakiness and dizziness. When we breathe deeply and slowly the feelings of panic can decrease .
Talk to the child within you and say it is OK.
It is very important that the child within you knows that your adult self is around and available. The child needs to know that it is safe to experience the feelings and let go of the past.
Find your boundaries.
When in flashback you may lose the sense of where you end and the world begins. Wrap yourself in a blanket, hold a pillow or soft toy, go to bed or sit in a safe place as a way of finding your boundaries
You may need to be alone or you may want someone near you. In either case it is important that your close friends know about your flashbacks so they can help with the process, whether that means letting you be by yourself or being there with you, whatever is right for you.
Take time to regain control.
Find a competent therapist.
Read on for our Grounding Tips
What Are Ptsd Flashbacks
As one of the most common signs of PTSD, a flashback is when something triggers you to go back to a past traumatic event. In the moment when you are reliving the memory, you can feel the same emotions you did at the time, act in the same way and even have the same physical sensations.
During a flashback, you may retain a connection with the present moment. They can also be so realistic that it feels as though you are going through the experience again.
Ordinary things can trigger a flashback. A certain name, place or emotion can all be cues that cause you to become immersed once more in the past event.
Putting Persistent Flashbacks In Their Place
If a memory is known and accepted as part of your life experience it is less likely to bother you in the present, even if the event was upsetting and you wish it had never happened. What can make flashbacks particularly difficult is that they can surprise you, appear apparently out of nowhere as a partial memory or as flashes of an event of which you previously had limited recollection. If these memories keep reappearing and are getting in the way of you living your life, it can be useful to work out how come you are having flashbacks about these particular events or these people right now?
An awareness of the trigger/s that stimulate these flashbacks can be useful, in that it makes the appearance of the memory understandable Youre not going crazy.
When you are feeling safe, supported and relaxed, you might find it useful to consider or write down
- What was happening when the memory appeared?
- Where were you? Who was around? What were you feeling/thinking, smelling/hearing/seeing/sensing?
- Does this relate to an event in your past?
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Therapy Can Help You Overcome Flashbacks
Understanding whats happening in your brain during a PTSD flashback can help you learn strategies to cope. You can work with a therapist to identify triggers for your flashbacks, such as certain objects, people, or places. Then, you can work with them to identify ways to respond calmly to these triggers through relaxation techniques as well as exposure and cognitive behavioral therapies..While PTSD can be a debilitating condition in some cases taking years for the survivor to be stable and healthy enough to process the trauma with appropriate treatment it can be successfully overcome. Work with a licensed therapist to manage PTSD symptoms in the workplace, at home, and in your day-to-day.
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What Are Emotional Flashbacks And How To Cope With Them
If you have experienced, or know someone who has experienced, Post-Traumatic Stress, chances are you are familiar with the phenomenon of flashbacks. However, you may not know that there are two types of flashbacks that impact individuals affected by trauma. Emotional flashbacks can be best defined as a sudden and persistent regression to overwhelming emotional states of childhood. While emotional flashbacks share the feature of being sudden and unpredictable, they are often prolonged in comparison to dissociative flashbacks, and typically do not have a visual component.
An emotional flashback can be a subtle experience, and does not necessarily include reliving the past as if it is in the present. Instead, emotional flashbacks bring up intense emotions of helplessness, despair, fear, alienation, rage and grief. These emotions may feel linked to the situation at hand, but, are in their intensity, related to childhood. During emotional flashbacks, it is these emotions which are more intense than the present situation warrants A central feature of emotional flashbacks is that one is dominated and cannot escape these intense distressing emotions, typically stemming from complex trauma from childhood. With increased complexity comes increased need for effective, perhaps more nuanced, coping skills.
Due to the unpredictable and overwhelming nature of emotional flashbacks, coping can be broken down into two stages:
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How To Stop Ptsd Anxiety Flashbacks And Panic
When Dr. Dan Siegel talks about posttraumatic stress disorder and integration in trauma recovery, he explains PTSD symptoms as pulling survivors between the two extremes of a riverbank: On one side is rigidity and on the other side, chaos.
I know from my own PTSD struggle , with PTSD you feel out of control so often, so many times and in so many ways that eventually or even right away its easy to slip into a mode of just giving in to the chaos.
The problem with giving into the chaos is that when you do that–when you allow yourself to swirl along without any attempt at finding a way to steer–recovery becomes more and more out of reach.
Reclaiming your ability to make choices and take actions is critical. How do you do that? One way is to look at how being intentional works in mindfulness. I sat down to chat with my colleague, Megan Ross, the Trauma Therapy Coordinator at Timberline Knolls to chat about these two ideas.
How To Cope With Ptsd Flashbacks
For people who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder , one of the hardest symptoms to deal with is flashbacks. Not only can they cause dramatic physical reactions, but they can also make the sufferer believe that they are experiencing the cause of their PTSD all over again.
But how does this happen? And is there a way to learn how to cope with PTSD flashbacks?
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Are There Different Types Of Flashbacks
Most flashbacks come in the form of images from the traumatic event. These images can lead you to experience intense emotions as well as physical symptoms like dizziness, shakiness, and a rapid heartbeat.
Other flashbacks, though, may come without the vivid imagery but with some of the emotions you experienced during the event.
Leading trauma therapist Pete Walker introduced the idea of emotional flashbacks to describe these episodes of overwhelming emotions.
Some of the intense emotions you could experience during these types of flashbacks include:
Emotional flashbacks can be common if you live with complex post-traumatic stress disorder .
When you have these types of flashbacks, you might feel deeply distressed and also confused over the source of the emotions. This can add to an overall sense of isolation and helplessness.
Unlike nightmares, most flashbacks happen while youre awake.
Flashbacks and nightmares arent the same thing, but both commonly show up as symptoms of PTSD.
That said, you dont have to have a PTSD diagnosis to have flashbacks after experiencing a traumatic incident.
Tip : Support Ptsd Treatment With A Healthy Lifestyle
The symptoms of PTSD can be hard on your body so its important to take care of yourself and develop some healthy lifestyle habits.
Take time to relax. Relaxation techniques such as meditation, deep breathing, massage, or yoga can activate the bodys relaxation response and ease symptoms of PTSD.
Avoid alcohol and drugs. When youre struggling with difficult emotions and traumatic memories, you may be tempted to self-medicate with alcohol or drugs. But substance use worsens many symptoms of PTSD, interferes with treatment, and can add to problems in your relationships.
Eata healthy diet. Start your day right with breakfast, and keep your energy up and your mind clear with balanced, nutritious meals throughout the day. Omega-3s play a vital role in emotional health so incorporate foods such as fatty fish, flaxseed, and walnuts into your diet. Limit processed food, fried food, refined starches, and sugars, which can exacerbate mood swings and cause fluctuations in your energy.
Get enough sleep. Sleep deprivation can trigger anger, irritability, and moodiness. Aim for somewhere between 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night. Develop a relaxing bedtime ritual and make your bedroom as quiet, dark, and soothing as possible.
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Some Problems Men Should Be Aware Of
What can make flashbacks particularly difficult for men to acknowledge and deal with is the unrealistic idea that men should always be in control of their body and able to cope with anything. This can have men not only having to deal with uninvited flashbacks, but evaluating and being down on themselves for not managing better, seeing it as some sort of commentary on them as a man. The type of flashback that appears as an emotional response without any clear memory of an event in the past can be particularly troublesome in this regard.
How Is Ptsd Treated
Professional treatment can help you feel better, says Dr. Wimbiscus. And while medications can play a role in treating the disorder, she says the gold-standard treatment is trauma-focused cognitive-behavioral therapy, or TF-CBT, and sometimes another variation of this type of therapy called EMDR .
This type of therapy helps you reframe your memories of the trauma and learn new ways to manage those thoughts and feelings. A big part of managing PTSD is having a skilled mental health professional working alongside you, Dr. Wimbiscus says.
Heres the ugly truth: That treatment isnt easy it might dig up memories or emotions youd rather keep buried. And for all that effort, you may not feel like youre making much progress. And you might have to meet with your therapist a few times before you can get into the real work of treating PTSD.
Having patience for that process is easier said than done. But your hard work will be worth it when you come out on the other side, with fewer symptoms and better tools to manage your anxiety.
Some people with PTSD will notice their symptoms fade in a matter of months. For others, healing takes longer. You may feel frustrated that you cant speed up the process.
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Put Energy Into Your Life In The Present
As indicated earlier, often the best thing you can do when a flashback occurs is to note its appearance, calm and relax yourself, and then put your energy into doing what is important to you living your life in the present. Below are some practical questions that can help diminish the influence of flashbacks by maintaining a focus on the present:
- How am I different now from the person who was abused or assaulted?
- How old am I now? Where do I live/work now?
- What options do I have now that I didnt have then?
- Who can I ask for support and encouragement?
- How do I like to spend my time?
- Where do I want to put my energy now?
Please consider that if flashbacks are persisting to interrupt your life, it may be worth locating a trained counsellor who will provide personalised information, support and encouragement to you.
Help is available. You do not need to go through this alone.
Acknowledgement: Created with reference to Brisbane Sexual Assault Service Handout Managing Flashbacks and Ontario Association of Male Survivor Services Educational Materials MANAGING FLASHBACKS developed by Rick Goodwin, MSW RSW of The Mens Project, 2004.
Tip : Reach Out To Others For Support
PTSD can make you feel disconnected from others. You may be tempted to withdraw from social activities and your loved ones. But its important to stay connected to life and the people who care about you. You dont have to talk about the trauma if you dont want to, but the caring support and companionship of others is vital to your recovery. Reach out to someone you can connect with for an uninterrupted period of time, someone who will listen when you want to talk without judging, criticizing, or continually getting distracted. That person may be your significant other, a family member, a friend, or a professional therapist. Or you could try:
Volunteering your time or reaching out to a friend in need. This is not only a great way to connect to others, but can also help you reclaim your sense of control.
Joining a PTSD support group. This can help you feel less isolated and alone and also provide invaluable information on how to cope with symptoms and work towards recovery.
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Why Do Flashbacks Occur
To address PTSD images and flashbacks and make them less powerful, it is important for people to know why they are happening in the first place.
Flashbacks and the mental pictures that surround them stem from traumatic events, and they belong to a cluster of symptoms in PTSD, known as re-experiencing symptoms, which also include nightmares and intrusive thoughts.
What happens during a flashback is that a person will have a recollection of this past trauma, that intrusive and often very spontaneous. The mental images in flashbacks can feel incredibly realistic and seem as if they are occurring in that specific moment this can lead to disassociation and can make a person feel like they lost touch with reality. This alone is a primary reason why they are so distressing for individuals with the disorder.
On the other hand, some people may only be able to have partial reliving of their traumatic memories, instead of a full replay of the event however, this does not make it any less bothersome for people.
Because the event has made a significant negative impact on their lives, it is considered of great importance to a person, and therefore will be on his or her mind. This can make thoughts and images intense and persistent, and the fear can cause individuals with PTSD to develop avoidance behaviors. For example, a person will go out of his or her way to stay away from things that will remind them of the traumatic event, which are also commonly known as triggers.
Emotional Flashbacks: What They Feel Like And How To Cope With Them
If youve ever had a flashback, youll know how disorientating and terrifying it can be. Flashbacks are known to be a symptom of post-traumatic stress disorder where the person can literally see and hear the traumatic event as if it were happening again right now. Yet there is also a kind of flashback that may not include visual or auditory aspects, and instead is more of a feeling as though thrown back into the threatening circumstances from childhood.
Emotional flashbacks are often associated with a diagnosis of complex trauma, or c-ptsd. Complex trauma can occur from ongoing adverse childhood conditions, including abuse, neglect or abandonment especially if the perpetrator was close to the child . Complex trauma symptoms can also develop if the childs parents were busy or emotionally unavailable. It can feel traumatic for children not to receive regular, consistent, unconditional love when they want and need it and this can create attachment issues that play out in adulthood.
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Here Are A Few Grounding Techniques You Can Try:
Look around the space youre in and notice whats around you- colors, objects, and people.
Notice and listen to the sounds around you. Do you hear cars, voices, music, birds chirping?
Make sure your eyes are open and if youre in a dark space, turn on a light.
Notice your body. How do your clothes feel on your skin? How is the chair or floor supporting you? Can you feel your toes in your shoes?
Move your body. Make sure to stretch, dance, clap your hands, or walk around. If you cant do that because of your current setting, wiggle your toes or rub your hands on your legs.
Breathe. When we get scared, we either forget to breathe or breathe too quickly. Make sure to take slow deep breathes to help calm your body.
Ask yourself questions in order to bring yourself into the present moment: Where am I right now? What day is it? What are my plans for the day?
Recite a positive affirmation: It might help to have a few affirmations or mantras already written down in your iPhone. Try I am safe right now, I am in control, or This will pass.
Eat something: Mindfully savor a mint, candy, chocolate, or any kind of food. If its something sour, even better!
Hold on to something: Notice how this item feels in your hand. This can be a piece of ice, a tissue, a pen. Anything. If you dont have an item around that you can grab on to, squeeze your hands as tight as you can.