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How To Cope With Traumatic Flashbacks In Therapy

June 12, 2023





How To Cope With Traumatic Flashbacks In Therapy

PTSD, also known as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, often comes with several side effects; one of these being traumatic flashbacks. As one of the more severe effects, these flashbacks tend to take a significant toll on a person's mental health and well-being. Especially when the image is so vividly connected to the event itself. Therefore, it's vital that you learn how to understand your emotions in order to minimise flashback consistency and severity. Today, we will discuss what traumatic flashbacks are, what creates them, how they manifest, and how therapeutic approaches can alleviate them in the long term. As an experienced counsellor, I pride myself on tailoring my services to suit each client, creating a treatment plan that offers comfort and effective coping mechanisms.

So, what is a flashback?

In short, a flashback is an involuntary and realistic re-experiencing of a traumatic event. When it comes to PTSD flashbacks, they're commonly caused by various stimuli, such as smells, sounds or sights that are reminiscent of the original experience. Due to the vividness of these visions, they can be highly distressing, especially as a person will feel as though they're reliving the traumatic event repeatedly. Furthermore, you can begin to experience dissociative flashbacks, which refers to the individual becoming disconnected from reality and, instead, fully immersed in the traumatic event again. These are the most severe flashback occurrences, causing further strain on the mind when it hasn't recovered from the issue at hand.

Why do people suffer from PTSD flashbacks?

In a scientific sense, trauma flashbacks are caused by having a smaller hippocampus. This part of the brain is responsible for our emotions and memories, and when met with fear, anxiety or flashbacks, changes to this area of the brain are made. It's important to remember that PTSD flashbacks are one of our mind's natural coping mechanisms.More often than not, they're mistaken for signs of mental instability, especially if not diagnosed by a professional. But in actual fact, to process and make sense of a trauma, the mind can become overwhelmed, leaving you feeling trapped within the event itself. If this is how your mind automatically copes with processing a trauma, this could be down to the severity of the trauma, your personal history, or several other factors that influence your thinking in such adverse circumstances.

How long after trauma are flashbacks normal? How long should flashbacks last?

When you experience PTSD, the consistency of flashbacks varies from person to person. It isn't uncommon for somebody to experience them just a few weeks or months following a traumatic event. In the same breath, they can also be triggered many years down the road. However, if they persist for over a few months and begin affecting your day-to-day life, it could indicate PTSD or another traumatic-related disorder.In terms of the length of flashback, this is very much dependent on the person too, but studies have shown that they can last between a few minutes to a day or more.

The long-term impact of untreated flashbacks

Left untreated, trauma flashbacks can become very harmful to one's mental health and quality of life. Flashbacks are widely known for causing depression, anxiety, social isolation and difficulties with daily functioning in a long-term sense. Not to mention, when reliving the same traumatic event on a continuous loop, one cannot heal; instead, it can spiral into further emotional pain.Because of this, it is advised that you seek professional help and guidance while also carrying out at-home therapies to aid you in recovery.

How to deal with PTSD flashbacks

When it comes to how to stop flashbacks of this nature, there are various techniques that you can explore, including seeking the help of a therapist. EMDR therapy is one of the most effective interventions for PTSD flashbacks. By providing individuals with the tools and support needed to address their flashbacks, these episodes can massively reduce in frequency and intensity, allowing you to focus on healing and moving forward. An EMDR therapist, such as myself, can support you in facing the original event and how it made you feel and help you to reprogram the way the memory is stored in your mind. EMDR is a structured eight-step treatment protocol that reduces the emotional disturbance caused by traumatic memories or imagined memories. This allows the client to inhabit a new level of strength, resilience and courage. It is undergone in a safe and comfortable space while receiving a level of support that brings ease and comfort.

Book an EMDR Therapy session today.

If you or a loved one is facing the harsh consequences of PTSD flashbacks or other trauma-related issues, I can help. My entire career has been dedicated to supporting and guiding clients in their self-discovery and recovery, which is why I now specialise in EMDR and Person-Centred Therapy, as they are the most effective and powerful solutions I have come across. Contact me via phone at 07914 952723, and together, we can work towards healing and regaining control over your life. Book a session here.

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