This article will offer expert insights into understanding, managing, and treating PTSD flashbacks, guiding individuals towards effective coping mechanisms and highlighting the potential for healing and tranquility.
Anyone who has struggled with a traumatic event and developed PTSD symptoms has probably asked about how to deal with PTSD flashbacks, in particular, or how to stop PTSD flashbacks.
Getting the right treatment involves combining things you can do at home to manage your PTSD flashback symptoms and professional treatment.
What are PTSD Flashbacks?
Post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, happens after individuals experience a traumatic event. PTSD can happen in close family members or friends as well if their loved one has experienced a traumatic event. Several things can cause PTSD, such as:
- Physical, emotional, or sexual abuse
- Being in a car accident
- Domestic violence
- War or torture
- Watching someone else get hurt
- Seeing someone die
- Natural disasters
PTSD emotional flashbacks are when something triggers you, and you are suddenly brought back, mentally and emotionally, to the source of the trauma.
Adrian was enlisted in the Marines. He was deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan. During that time, he endured several bombing campaigns and was exposed to a great deal of grotesque scenes and violence.
When he came home and was at a small-town baseball game for his nephew, fireworks went off. The fireworks had the same sound as some of the campaigns in which he fought, and he immediately had a flashback of being in Iraq.
He found himself reaching for a gun he didn’t have and hiding under the bleachers, having dragged his family with him for protection. He suddenly didn’t know where he was; his adrenaline spiked, as did his heart rate, and he perceived everyone around him as a threat.
How to Deal with PTSD Flashbacks
If you or someone close to you is struggling with this particular symptom of PTSD, figuring out how to deal with PTSD flashbacks starts with understanding triggers. For the military, the two most common triggers include fireworks and large noises from machinery like generators or ice machines.
However, triggers are highly personalized and based on the type of trauma you experienced. If you were involved in a car accident, your triggers could be anything from driving in the area where the accident took place to someone maneuvering in front of you in a similar way as to what happened when you were in the accident or simply getting in a car at all.
If you work with a therapist, you can take the time to reflect on your experience and find the things that trigger you.
Tips for how to deal with PTSD Flashbacks
There are several things you can do in between therapy sessions and other holistic treatments.
Keep a Journal
One of the things you can do at home to start treatment for PTSD flashbacks is to keep a journal of when these flashbacks transpired. You might keep several journals, such as one next to your bed if you typically have flashbacks while sleeping or one in your car. You might even keep notes on the phone.
Keeping a journal where you can track when and where a flashback transpired will make it easier for you to recognize patterns and uncover triggers.
If you experience a flashback, it is important to address it right when it happens by reminding yourself of where you are, that the trauma is over, and that you are safe. You should literally look around and point out what you see and how you are safe now.
The Five Senses
Use your five senses to stay present in the moment. This is a mindfulness technique that you can use no matter where a flashback transpires. You can remain present in the moment by doing something as simple as:
- Touching your clothing
- Smelling the air
- Looking around
- Walking into another room
- Eating a piece of candy or drinking a glass of water
Create a safe space mentally and physically by doing things that make you feel secure.
- This can include something as simple as wrapping a blanket around yourself so that you feel warm and comforted.
- It might be a special breathing technique like “Square breathing,” where you breathe in for 4 seconds, hold your breath at the top for 4 seconds, exhale for 4 seconds, and hold your breath at the bottom for 4 seconds.
- You might call a trusted friend or family member who can provide comfort and talk you through the flashback.
Distraction and Redirection Techniques
You can also work hard to distract and redirect your attention. This can include immediately engaging in a mindful activity like yoga, hiking, meditation, gardening, listening to music, reading, or watching a TV show you like.
Professional Treatment for PTSD Flashbacks
If you are still struggling with your PTSD emotional flashbacks, your best course of action is to reach out to a mental health professional and find legitimate mental health treatment.
With PTSD flashbacks, treatment involves what is called trauma-informed care, and this means you work with professionals who aim to avoid retraumatization by ensuring aspects of your care do not trigger you or make your symptoms worse. This can include changes to things like:
- Where you meet,
- With whom you work,
- What is said,
- How the meeting is conducted.
If your PTSD flashbacks are often triggered by certain phrases, your mental health professional will take that into account when conducting your therapy sessions. If your PTSD flashback symptoms are associated with someone of a particular gender, then you might get gender-specific care that doesn’t trigger you.
Learning how to stop PTSD flashbacks can offer you freedom from your previous trauma. But this only comes with some at-home strategies and professional treatment in many cases. Thankfully, you can find treatment for PTSD flashbacks in New York City. Don’t let your flashbacks stop you from remaining hopeful that you can overcome your symptoms. Reach out for help today.