Flashbacks and Dissociation: How to Cope with PTSD Flashbacks
What are Flashbacks?
Flashbacks and Dissociation can be some of the most disturbing symptoms of PTSD. A Flashback is when you feel or act as though you’re reliving your trauma. Flashbacks are usually momentary, and you will maintain some connection with the present moment. In worse cases, you lose all awareness of what’s going on around you and are back in your traumatic event. This second class is dissociation. Coping with Flashbacks and Dissociation can make daily life troublesome. A Specialized Treatment Program is a great plan but there are tips you can try at home. So how do you cope with flashbacks?
1. Know Your Triggers
Flashbacks are often triggered by something that reminds you of your trauma. It can be people you encounter or a certain stressful situation. I know someone who experienced a flashback because they walked into a room that was painted the same color as the place their trauma occurred. Triggers can be anything but it’s important to identify what they are. By knowing your triggers, you can limit or even eliminate your exposure to them.
2. Know Your Flashback Warning Signs
Warning signs are different for everyone. For some, symptoms include difficulty breathing and elevated heart rate. For some people, surroundings may begin to look fuzzy and other people may start to feel hyper aware of their surroundings. As important as it is to know your triggers, it is equally important to know the warning signs. The warning signs are what give you the opportunity to employ your coping skills.
3. Get Grounded
Grounding techniques are important coping skills to learn for coping with flashbacks. Grounding techniques keep you from slipping into the past and keep you “grounded” in the present. These rely primarily on the five senses. Two of the simplest are taste and touch.
- Taste – Bite into a wedge of lemon. The sourness of a lemon and the strong taste it produces will force you to stay into the present moment. If you’re on the go, keep a sour candy, like a Warheads, in your pocket and pop it in your mouth when you’re triggered.
- Touch – Squeeze a piece of ice in your hand. Focus on the extreme sensation of the cold and it’s sure to do the trick.
4. Create Your Safe Space
People will experience triggers when they feel unsafe, so create your own safe space or “safety pack.”
- Safe Space – Make a room in your home your safe place. Find a candle with a comforting scent. This could be a candle that reminds you of the ocean, the forest, or any comforting / safe event in your past, the possibilities are endless. Maybe have a thick plush blanket (weighted blankets work well too) you can wrap around yourself. Whatever it is, just make sure it feels safe to you.
- Safety Pack – This is helpful for those on the go. Get a backpack and instead of a candle find some lotion that has a “safe” smell. Put your favorite snacks in there. Add a fidget spinner (something to help distract you from the trigger). Anything you use on the go can be perfect for your safety pack.
5. Honor Your Experience
Most Importantly, honor your experience. You have been through something traumatic. Maybe you have survived something that most wouldn’t. Honor yourself and your experience. Coping with flashbacks is never easy, but you have survived, and your life has meaning. Give yourself grace and know that coping with PTSD is a process. Your coping skills improve with time, and it WILL get easier. So, keep on your journey towards recovery.