How to Cope with PTSD Flashbacks

July 2, 2013   •  Posted in: 

Flashbacks are a common symptom of people suffering from PTSD. They are quite frightening for the individual suffering them, as well as the loved ones of the sufferer. A Place of Hope created this guide to give you methods for coping with flashbacks.

First, we need to define a flashback. Flashbacks are when a past trauma is experienced as if it is currently happening. They can be experienced as images, smells, sounds, feelings and pain. An individual experiencing a flashback may still maintain some awareness of the current situation, or could completely lose awareness of the surroundings. Flashbacks are usually started by triggers, which are ordinary things that act as a reminder of the traumatic event. For example, a car door slamming may trigger a flashback of a shooting.

The first step to dealing with flashbacks is to learn your triggers. What have you encountered that caused flashbacks? Once you have identified what triggers a flashback, create a plan to avoid that trigger or deal with the trigger if you encounter it.

Flashbacks can feel as if they suddenly happen with no warning. By taking a close look at what you were thinking or feeling right before your flashback occurred, you may find some indications or symptoms that happen right before your flashback.

Start by telling yourself, out loud or in your mind, where and when you are. For example, “It’s Tuesday and I’m in my living room.”If you are experiencing a flashback, you can use grounding techniques to help attach you to the present moment.

  • You can also remind yourself that this is a flashback and it will end shortly, for example, “This is a memory, it will be over soon.”
  • Take deep, slow breaths. When your body experiences fear or panic, you take shallow, fast breaths. Breathing deeply and slowly can pull you out of a panicked state.
  • Use your senses to make you aware of your present surroundings.
  • Name items in the room or identify colors around you.
  • Find aromatherapy oils that calm you and breathe it in during a flashback.
  • Turn on loud music and focus on the sounds in the present moment.
  • Eat or drink something with a strong taste, such as a pickle or lemonade.
  • Touch something and focus on its texture, such as a smooth stone or a rough piece of sandpaper.

Talk to trusted family members and friends to have them help you. Explain your triggers and warning signs so they can help you with grounding techniques if you experience a flashback.

Finally, and most importantly, seek treatment. PTSD is not something you have to live with for the rest of your life. If left untreated, PTSD and flashbacks can get worse with time.

Flashbacks can be managed, and PTSD can be treated. A Place of Hope treats PTSD by compassionately examining and understanding the underlying issues causing your PTSD. We believe in treating the whole person – physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. Fill out our contact form today so one of our confidential counselors can call you to get started on your treatment plan.

Dr. Gregory Jantz

Pioneering Whole Person Care over thirty years ago, Dr. Gregory Jantz is an innovator in the treatment of mental health. He is a best-selling author of over 45 books, and a go-to media authority on behavioral health afflictions, appearing on CBS, ABC, NBC, Fox, and CNN. Dr. Jantz leads a team of world-class, licensed, and...

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