What is a Flashback for People With PTSD?

Casues, Prevention and Treatment for Flashbacks Suffered By People With PTSD

blurry vision
Joe Fox/Photographer's Choice/Getty Images

Flashbacks are considered one of the re-experiencing symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). As the name implies, in a flashback, a person may feel or act as though a traumatic event is happening again.

A flashback can vary in severity. A flashback may be a temporary occurrence, and a person may maintain some connection with the present moment. On the other hand, during a flashback, a person may lose all awareness of what is going on around them, being taken completely back to their traumatic event.

Similar to a dissociative episode, during a flashback, a person may also lose track of time.

An example would be a war veteran with PTSD who is in a store and may begin to feel like the store looks like a jungle and the people around him begin to look like fellow soldiers or the enemy.

Flashback Triggers

In coping with flashbacks, prevention is paramount. Flashbacks are often triggered  by some kind of reminder of a traumatic event (for example, encountering certain people, going to specific places), or some other stressful experience. Avoidance of these situations is the best remedy for preventing flashbacks in people with PTSD.

Identifying a Flashback is About To Occur

Look for warning signs that you may be about to experience a flashback. These signs include:

  • Surroundings may begin to look "fuzzy." 
  • You may feel as though you're separating from or losing touch with your surroundings.
  • You may feel as though you're losing touch with other people,
  • You may lose touch with yourself.

Learn Grounding Techniques

As the name implies, grounding is a particular way of coping that is designed to "ground" you in the present moment. In doing so, you can retain your connection with the present moment and reduce the likelihood that you slip into a flashback.

A couple of grounding techniques are described below.

  • Sound: Turn on loud music.
  • Touch: Grip a piece of ice.
  • Smell: Sniff some strong peppermint.
  • Taste: Bite into a lemon.
  • Sight: Take an inventory of everything around you.

Treatment for Flashbacks

The best way to prevent flashbacks is to seek  treatment for your PTSD. Flashbacks may be a sign that you are struggling to confront or cope with the traumatic event you experienced. Treatment can help with this. You can find PTSD treatment providers in your area through the Anxiety Disorder Association of America website, as well as UCompare HealthCare from About.com. 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.

Related Articles About PTSD

    Continue Reading