5 Grounding Techniques for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

Grounding Techniques Use the Five Senses

person turning up radio
Images by Fabio Moment/Getty Images

Grounding is a particular type of coping strategy that is designed to "ground" you in or immediately connect you with the present moment. Grounding is often used as a way of coping with flashbacks or dissociation for people with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). In this way, grounding can be considered a variant of mindfulness.

Grounding techniques often use the five senses (sound, touch, smell, taste, and sight) to immediately connect people with the here and now.

For example, listening to loud music, holding onto a piece of ice, or biting into a lemon are all grounding techniques that produce sensations that are difficult to ignore. Therefore, these can directly and instantaneously connect you with the present moment.

5 Grounding Techniques

Grounding allows you to retain your connection with the present moment. At the same time, it reduces the likelihood that you will slip into a flashback or dissociation.

To ground, use the five senses. To connect with the here and now, do something that will bring all your attention to the present moment. 

  • Sound: Turn up the radio. Loud music is hard to ignore. By turning your attention to loud music, you will be diverted from a flashback or dissociation and directed toward that noise.
  • Touch: Grip an ice cube. If you notice that you are slipping into a flashback or a dissociative state, take hold of an ice cube. It will be difficult to direct your attention away from the extreme coldness of the ice, forcing you to stay in touch with the present moment.
  • Smell: Sniff strong peppermint. When you smell something strong, it is very hard to focus on anything else. In this way, smelling peppermint can bring you into the present moment, slowing down or stopping altogether a flashback or an episode of dissociation. The smell of peppermint also has a soothing aspect.
  • Taste: Bite into a lemon or lime. The sourness of a lemon or lime and the strong sensation it produces in your mouth when you bite into it can force you to stay in the present moment.
  • Sight: Take an inventory of everything around you. Connect with the present moment by listing what is going on around you. Identify all the colors and patterns you see. Count all the pieces of furniture around you. Taking an inventory of your immediate environment can directly connect you with the present moment.

Grounding Can be Done Anywhere

The nice thing about using grounding as a coping technique is that it can be done in any environment. You might be home alone or out in public, but once you feel that flashback or dissociation coming on, you can use grounding to move your focus back to the present.

Working on this technique takes dedication and it becomes easier over time. If these particular grounding techniques don't work for you, try something else. Some people find a cool shower or a rubber band on the wrist useful to snap them back to the moment. The ultimate goal is to live in the now and distract yourself when the past starts coming up.

Treatment for PTSD

You can find PTSD treatment providers in your area through the Anxiety Disorder Association of America website.

The International Society for the Study of Trauma and Dissociation (ISSTD) also provides a wealth of information on the connection between trauma and dissociation, how to cope with dissociation, and provides links to therapists who treat trauma and dissociation.

Continue Reading