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PTSD and flashbacks


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Yet again this time of year triggers intense flash backs and creates unpleasant anxiety attacks for me. I am trying to find out if there is a name for a type of flashback which a person may have but they actually did not see that sight at the time.

Sorry I may not be explaining this right. I am trying to type with out triggering myself or anyone else. If a person has detailed specific information about the violent death of a family member. Is the picture which they formulate in their mind still called a flashback; as it carries intense emotion and triggers other real flashback that were seen at the time. So the picture may not actually be true and correct as such. (so in my mind, I am seeing it as invalid - possible black and white thing).

Then the second part of my question in how does one reduce the power, time, energy this 'invalid' visual mind picture takes up?

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I meant to respond to this last night, but life got in the way.

You have two questions.

1. is it properly a flashback if it is your imagined recreation from a verbal description (e.g., you didn't experience it directly, but instead vicariously)

2. how do you cope with it.

I don't know the official answer to the first question, but here is my take. Perhaps it's not a good idea to call it a flashback, becuase the flashback concept does seem to presume that what is being flashed is something you previously experienced directly. However, I think what you are describing could be every bit as powerful and devastating as a flashback. The brain doesn't distinguish between remembered events and described events all that well - it is all a process of "re-membering" (e.g., reassembling) things, and it is never a perfect receration. It's all just a complex of memory by the time you are having problems with the images. And if your experiences which are imagined recreations of a verbal description are vivid and making you crazy, well, it may not properly be a flashback but it is acting exactly like one, so let's call it a flashback just the same.

The treatment for all of these things anxiety related and expecially for trauma is exposure. The basic idea is that you aren't able to manage the anxiety/arousal associated with the memory/recreation so you avoid it, and that maintains the anxiety/arousal. So - the thing do to is to tell the story in as much vivid detail as possible. Obviously, this is going to be a huge trigger, so you need to do this in a safe environment with safe people around, and to do it slowly, etc. It isn't a good idea to just jump into the deep end of the pool, but rather to wade in, but you do generally need to get into the pool (e.g., to face the fears and let the natural process of habituation (in which you get used to things that are initially frigtenening) take place. That is how anxietys are broken down, and trauma stress is an anxiety disorder.

Hope this helps.


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Hi confused, this must be a tough experience for you. Since you're able to recreate the incident and relive the experience, then yes, it might have been a flashback.

As far as I can remember, the process is called 'systematic desensitization' and for some, may even require pharmacological therapy (anxiolytics) as they are slowly exposed to the trigger, so a professional psych shoul be consulted.

How are you feeling right now? Are you still feeling anxious?

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Thanks Mark and Dazed,

No problem Mark I understand how busy life is. Thanks for taking the time to respond though.

I guess I am finding this mental image disturbing because I seen so much else but not the final result, so much is real and witnessed but the one aspect is not. I was wondering if my brain is trying to make sense of the situation and keeps replaying this image. My parents refused to allow me to see the real image at the time. So I am some what frustrated now, so many years later that this image 'haunts' me. It is actually often worse than the real flashbacks I have.

As for putting the whole 'story' together, it may take a lot more work. It's like a puzzle, bits can be seen and remembered and other pieces are completely missing.

Dazed, things are in a heighten state of anxiety, it has taken some time to respond, but I am working on keeping grounded and calm. I do have meds too deal with the anxiety when it gets out of hand, but me being me, I would rather not use them. I need to learn skills and alternate ways too keeping the anxiety in check. I must admit I have not been so successful at it. I have no patience for myself which doesn't help.

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