What are Flashbacks? (Posttraumatic Stress Disorder [PTSD] – Intrusion Symptom)

This video explains the concept of a flashback, which is a symptom associated with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). When we look at the definition of PTSD, we can divide the symptoms into five categories: qualifying trauma, intrusive symptoms, avoidance symptoms, negative mood, and arousal and reactivity. Flashbacks would be part of intrusive symptoms, which is otherwise known as intrusion. Flashbacks are re-experiencing episodes that are involuntary, recurrent, and can have physiological, emotional, and sensory components to them. Not all re-experiencing is a flashback. Sometimes re-experiencing only involves memories or dreams. When there is re-experiencing and that is accompanied by a dissociative state, sometimes this qualifies an episode as a flashback. During a flashback an individual may behave as if the traumatic event is happening currently. This can have a number of components: physiological (e.g. sweating, increased heartrate), emotional (e.g. feelings of fear, depression, anxiety), and sensory (e.g. visual, auditory, tactile, and olfactory). Somebody can see, hear, touch, and smell the elements in a flashback potentially. Sometimes we see some of those senses are functioning during a flashback and other ones would not be. For example, some flashbacks are only visual. Sometimes flashbacks do not have a memory component or a sensory component, but only an emotional component. These are referred to as an emotional flashback. Emotional flashbacks as more associated with trauma that occurs in early childhood as opposed to later in life. There is some controversy around flashbacks and how they might relate to dissociation. A lot of times we think of a flashback as a dissociative state, but there is research that shows that flashbacks and dissociation may be completely separate constructs. There is various research using brain scans that show that different areas of the brain are active during a flashback than we see with dissociation. We don’t know what causes flashbacks, however, there are a number of theories about what may be going on in the brain that could lead to flashbacks. One of the more popular theories is that traumatic experiences are encoded in the brain differently than other experiences, so they are more prone to result in a flashback than a non-traumatic memory.

Source: Youtube