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Emotional Flashbacks & Triggers

Emotional Flashbacks & Triggers


Emotional Flashbacks & Triggers

Emotional flashbacks are intense, overwhelming, and often confusing experiences that can occur when an individual is triggered by a situation or circumstance that resembles a past traumatic event. These flashbacks are a common symptom of complex post-traumatic stress disorder (C-PTSD) and can be highly distressing for those who experience them.

Understanding what emotional flashbacks are, what triggers them, and how to manage them can be crucial for individuals who struggle with C-PTSD or other trauma-related conditions.

What are Emotional Flashbacks?

Emotional flashbacks can be defined as intense, emotional reactions to present-day situations that are similar to past traumatic experiences. These flashbacks are different from traditional flashbacks in that they are primarily emotional rather than visual. An emotional flashback can be triggered by several situations, including smells, sounds, and even certain words or phrases.

Emotional flashbacks can be especially difficult to deal with because they can occur without warning, leaving the individual feeling confused, overwhelmed, and out of control. The emotions and sensations that arise during an emotional flashback can be just as intense as those experienced during the original traumatic event, and they can last for hours, days, or even weeks.

Feelings experienced during Emotional flashbacks

During emotional flashbacks, a person may experience a range of intense emotions, such as:

  • Fear: Emotional flashbacks may make an individual feel afraid or anxious. They may feel like they are in danger, even if no real threat exists.
  • Helplessness: A person may feel powerless or helpless, as if they cannot control their emotions or the situation they find themselves in.
  • Anger: Emotional flashbacks can also cause an individual to feel angry or irritable. They may feel like they are being unfairly treated or that they are not being heard.
  • Shame: Emotional flashbacks can trigger feelings of shame or guilt. An individual may feel like they are responsible for the traumatic event that happened to them.
  • Confusion: During an emotional flashback, an individual may feel confused or disoriented and struggle to make sense of their thoughts and feelings.
  • Sadness: Emotional flashbacks can also lead to feelings of sadness or depression. Individuals may feel overwhelmed by their emotions and struggle to find hope or joy.

How to identify emotional flashbacks/ symptoms of emotional flashbacks

Unlike regular memories, emotional flashbacks can feel as if you are reliving an experience, and they can be very distressing. Here are some common symptoms of emotional flashbacks:

  1. Intense feelings of fear or anxiety that come on suddenly and without an apparent reason.
  2. A sense of dread or foreboding that something terrible is about to happen.
  3. Feeling like you are in danger or need to escape from a situation.
  4. A feeling of being trapped or helpless, even when there is no apparent threat.
  5. Feeling disconnected from reality or your own emotions.
  6. Difficulty concentrating or focusing on tasks.
  7. Feeling like you are stuck in the past and unable to move forward.
  8. Feeling overwhelmed or flooded with emotions, such as anger, sadness, or shame.
  9. Physical sensations include sweating, rapid heartbeat, or shortness of breath.

What Triggers Emotional Flashbacks?

A variety of situations or circumstances can trigger emotional flashbacks, and each individual may have different triggers based on their specific trauma history. Here are some common triggers of emotional flashbacks:

Sensory Triggers:

Sensory triggers are one of the most common types of triggers for emotional flashbacks. These triggers can include smells, sounds, sights, and even textures that remind the individual of past traumatic experiences. For example, the sound of a car backfiring might trigger an emotional flashback for someone in a car accident.

Relationship Triggers:

Relationship triggers are another common type of trigger for emotional flashbacks. These triggers can occur when the individual is in a relationship that reminds them of past abusive or traumatic relationships. For example, someone who was in an abusive relationship might experience an emotional flashback when their current partner raises their voice.


Environmental Triggers:

Environmental triggers are situations or circumstances that remind the individual of past traumatic experiences. These triggers can include anything from specific locations to certain types of weather. For example, someone in a natural disaster might experience an emotional flashback during a severe storm.

Internal Triggers:

Internal triggers are thoughts or feelings that arise within the individual that remind them of past traumatic experiences. These triggers can include feelings of shame, guilt, or fear. For instance, someone who was sexually assaulted might experience an emotional flashback when they feel ashamed or embarrassed about their body and their sexuality.

Managing Emotional Flashbacks

Managing emotional flashbacks can be a challenging and ongoing process, but some strategies can be helpful. Here are some tips for managing emotional flashbacks:

1. Recognize the flashback:

The first step in managing emotional flashbacks is recognizing them when they occur. Pay attention to your body and emotions. If you notice yourself feeling scared, anxious, or overwhelmed, you may be experiencing an emotional flashback

2. Identify Triggers:

Identifying triggers is the first step in managing emotional flashbacks. It can be helpful to keep a journal or log of emotional flashbacks to identify patterns and common triggers. Once triggers have been identified, the individual can work to avoid or minimize exposure to those triggers.

3. Grounding Techniques:

These techniques can be helpful during emotional flashbacks to help bring the individual back to the present moment. Techniques like deep breathing, mindfulness, and visualization can help calm the mind and body and reduce the intensity of the emotions being experienced.

4. Talk to a Therapist:

Working with a therapist can be especially helpful for individuals who struggle with emotional flashbacks. Therapists can help individuals identify triggers, develop coping strategies, and work through past traumatic experiences. Different therapies like Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), or Somatic Experiencing (SE)

5. Use self-compassion:

Be kind and compassionate to yourself when you experience emotional flashbacks. Remind yourself that the flashback is not your fault and that you are doing your best to manage it.

6. Seek support:

Emotional flashbacks can be challenging to manage alone. Consider seeking support from a support group or therapist. Talking to someone who understands what you’re going through can help manage emotional flashbacks.

7. Practice self-care:

Take care of yourself by eating healthy foods, getting enough sleep, and engaging in activities that bring you happiness. Self-care can help reduce the frequency and intensity of emotional flashbacks.


What happens during Emotional flashbacks?

Emotional flashbacks are a type of psychological experience where a person feels intense emotions that are similar to those they experienced during a past traumatic event. These flashbacks can be triggered by specific cues, such as sight, sound, smell, or situation reminiscent of the traumatic event. One of the distinguishing features of emotional flashbacks is that they often involve a sense of lost control or a loss of connection to reality. This can make it difficult for the person to process what is happening and understand that they are not in danger.

Are Emotional flashbacks the Same as panic attacks?

No, emotional flashbacks and panic attacks are not the same things, although they may share some similarities in terms of symptoms. Emotional flashbacks are a type of re-experiencing of past traumatic events, where a person may suddenly and unexpectedly feel overwhelmed by emotions that are similar to those they felt during the original trauma. Panic attacks, on the other hand, are sudden and intense episodes of fear or anxiety, often accompanied by physical symptoms such as a racing heart, sweating, trembling, or difficulty breathing. Specific situations can trigger panic attacks or can occur unexpectedly. While emotional flashbacks and panic attacks may have some similarities in terms of symptoms, they are distinct experiences that require different treatment approaches. It’s important to consult a mental health professional if you are experiencing either of these conditions to receive an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment.

What is the difference between Emotional flashbacks and PTSD flashbacks?

Emotional flashbacks are not necessarily visual but rather involve intense emotional reactions that are triggered by something in the present that is reminiscent of the traumatic event. In contrast, PTSD flashbacks often involve vivid and realistic visual and auditory experiences of the traumatic event.


If you experience these symptoms, it’s essential to seek help from a mental health professional. A therapist can help you identify the triggers of your emotional flashbacks, teach you coping skills to manage them, and work with you to heal from past traumas.

Remember, managing emotional flashbacks is a process, and finding what works best for you may take time. Be patient with yourself and keep trying different techniques until you find what works for you.

ALSO, READ 10 Ways To Change a Person From Bad To Good

Originally posted 2023-03-18 00:03:46.

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