Flashbacks and PTSD

Usually, putting an unwanted thought out of your mind is a pretty easy task. It’s a fairly simple process of replacing the unwanted thought with another thought. We do this repeatedly all day long. This isn’t the case when a person has Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). The reason that the person has PTSD is because they experienced a terrifying, traumatic event. The individual has become completely consumed with the thoughts, feelings and emotions of the original traumatic event as if it is repeating itself. The exact memory from the horrific experience is like a time warp back to the event and there is no escape route. These intense feelings and emotions are the same as the original day. Fortunately, not everyone with PTSD has flashbacks.

Bits and Pieces

The intruding flashback might not be an exact replay minute by minute. It could be just bits and pieces that pop up into the person’s brain, causing a cold chill or goose bumps. It could be a sound, a taste, a vision of the attacker’s gun about to shoot at the victim, or a brilliant flash of light from the grenade blast as it took off the victims leg.

Reliving the Past

These images intrude into the victim’s consciousness while they are in a deep sleep causing them to abruptly wake up from their nightmare in a cold sweat. There is no control over these dreams, just like there is no apparent control over the flashbacks.

An on-looker doesn’t understand that these intruding thoughts aren’t just in the person’s head, they can consume the victim’s entire being. The person’s skin is crawling, trying to escape. Their heart is pounding so hard it’s about to break through their chest. Their palms are wet and trembling. It’s not just a thought or memory of the actual event, the person is reliving it – as if sent back in time to that very moment.

These intrusive thoughts can occur at inopportune moments and can interrupt the victim during ordinary duties while at work. To the on-looker, the person is suddenly trembling and visibly shaken for seemingly no reason. The affected person may get up and run out of the room to escape the trauma memory.

Spring Cleaning

Flashbacks can occur at any time. Putting them out of your mind is often difficult but not impossible. But it does take discipline. Think of your flashback memory sitting in a box next to you on the sofa. Imagine the box is rolling down a runway sprouting wings. Imagine it lifting off and flying away. Or, imagine your painful memory as a small dust-bunny sitting on the carpet ready to be vacuumed and discarded. Or, start your spring cleaning of all those nightmares by putting them in cartons to be stacked curb-side ready for the trash truck to take away.

Take Control

These ideas may seem a little silly but they illustrate that you are in control of your thoughts. That thoughts are just thoughts. But before starting a complete spring cleaning and risking new flashbacks or panic attacks, try the vacuuming approach. If you can safely discard a small thought continue on to the next, giving yourself praise for achieving positive results.

This report is not a diagnosis. We hope this information can guide you toward improving your life.

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