A flashback is difficult to define and understand. In simplest terms it is the re-experiencing of a traumatic event in the present. Flashbacks can be full, abreactions or partial. A full flashback is typically not remember-ed by you. You leave the present and relive the event at both a psych-ological and physiological level. If you experience a full flashback you may lose significant amounts of time and be unable to account for that lost time. Others may not be able to arouse you out of this state. After the flashback you may feel like you are losing your mind. You may be afraid to tell others what is happening to you because you are afraid they will think that you are crazy.
A partial flashback is easier to identify. A partial flashback may consist of memories, thoughts, and feelings of a traumatic event typically with accompany feelings in your body. You will feel as if the trauma is happening again yet at some level you are aware of the present. You may feel as if you are living between the past and the present. You may feel the age you were when the traumatic event occurred. If you do not know what is happening to you, you may think you are crazy, especially if it seems to occur without an easily identifiable trigger in your present environment.
Flashbacks are extremely frightening for you and your family because most people do not know what is happening or how to manage these symptoms. Unfortunately many people turn to the use of behaviors that at least in the short run help to manage the symptoms but in long run are self-harming and become less effective over time. You may use drugs, alcohol, dieting, bingeing, purging, over eating, over working, over exercising, obsessions, compulsions, cutting, burning, gambling, sex, or relationships to manage flashbacks.
In many cases these coping measures are effective, sometimes for years. It is not unusual for an individual to enter treatment in their late 30’s, 40’s, or 50’s. It seems at least in the early years of life an individual’s cop-ing mechanisms remain effective with minimal negative impact. You may have entered therapy for other reasons that concern the way you were managing the symptoms. You may have been using or abusing drugs or alcohol, acquired an eating disorder, or some other type of behavior that was negatively impacting your life. What you found was that as you started to recover or stop using your typical methods of coping the flashbacks increased. Relapse is a higher risk when trauma symptoms remain untreated.