The flashback most people think of is one where the person gets lost in the memory and is unaware of their current surroundings and reality. In that type of flashback, the memory is vivid, feels entirely real, and completely takes over the person's awareness. The person feels like the traumatic experience is happening again, like being in a nightmare. This is a common type of flashback! What most people don't realise is that there are different kinds of flashbacks you can experience and different ways to experience flashbacks.
Flashbacks may involve all, some, or even only one of your senses (for example, hearing a voice or smelling a smell). You might get completely "lost" in the flashback, or you might remain fully aware of where you are in the moment.
In some flashbacks, sometimes called Body Flashbacks, you may experience physical sensations such as pain or pressure. These sensations will resemble what you felt during the traumatic event. While these are happening, you may not see or hear anything resembling a flashback – but this is still a flashback. It can also overlap with other flashbacks.
Emotional Flashbacks Simply put, emotional flashbacks usually lack auditory, visual and physical aspects. Emotional flashbacks are overwhelming emotions and responses where you’re experiencing the emotions you felt during your trauma. It is common to not even realize that the emotional reaction you are having is an emotional flashback. (This is especially common with complex PTSD).
Auditory Flashbacks: Hearing the same sounds you heard during your trauma. It's not uncommon for these to overlap with other flashbacks.
Visual Flashbacks: These flashbacks can occur in first and third person. These will likely disrupt what you are doing as this is re-experiencing the event, visually. May overlap with other flashbacks, such as emotional.
Another aspect of flashbacks to note is that they can vary wildly in length. Some may only last seconds, while others last hours or even days.
Whatever your flashbacks are, they are valid. You are valid.
Here are some grounding techniques that may help when flashbacks occur.
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