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Treatment of PTSD Flashbacks: Can Anything Help?

There are treatments for PTSD flashbacks. Learn about professional PTSD flashback treatments and use a self-help worksheet on HealthyPlace.com.

If you suffer from flashbacks, you’ll want to know what the treatments for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) flashbacks are. This is understandable as PTSD flashbacks can be frightening and interrupt day-to-day activities. Feeling like you are re-experiencing a trauma is not something anyone wants.

There are many ways to treat PTSD flashbacks.

Professional PTSD Flashbacks Treatment

It’s important to reach out for help if you have PTSD. Serious PTSD is not generally something you can handle on your own. Both psychiatrists and psychologists are equipped to help with this mental illness. Ideally, you should seek professional PTSD flashback treatment from someone who specializes in trauma-related illnesses.

In addition to one-on-one treatment, there is often group therapy available for PTSD treatment.

According to Understanding and Treating Unwanted Trauma Memories in Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, some of the aspects of the psychological treatments for PTSD flashbacks include the following:

  • Updating trauma memories: addresses the disjointedness of memories of the worst moments of the trauma from information that gives them a less threatening meaning by:
    • Identifying the moments during the trauma that create the greatest distress and sense of “nowness” (“hotspots”)
    • Identifying the personal meanings of these moments
    • Identifying “updating” information that puts the impressions the patient had at the time or the problematic meanings into perspective
    • Actively linking the updating information to the hotspots in memory, for example, by bringing the hotspot vividly to mind and simultaneously using verbal reminders, images, incompatible actions or incompatible sensations to remind the patient of the new meanings
  • Stimulus discrimination training: addresses the easy triggering of intrusive memories by matching sensory cues. People learn to identify the subtle sensory triggers and learn to realize that they are responding to a memory. They learn to pay close attention to the differences between the harmless trigger and its present context (“now”) and the stimulus configuration that occurred in the context of trauma (“then”).
  • Reclaiming your life homework assignments: addresses appraisals of permanent change and problems in retrieving specific memories of a person’s life before the trauma. These assignments involve doing things that the patient has given up since the trauma, for example, resuming social contacts, sports or other leisure activities. These activities provide cues for specific memories of themselves before the trauma.

It’s also important to note that anything that treats PTSD in general, will typically also diminish the effects of PTSD flashbacks. These types of therapies include:

For more information on more techniques you can on your own (alongside professional help), see: How to Stop PTSD Flashbacks?

Coping with Flashbacks Worksheet

When you’re undergoing PTSD flashbacks treatment, you may find using this coping with flashbacks worksheet helpful. This worksheet helps when you are coping with flashbacks by getting you to answer simple questions.

Fill in the following:

  1. Right now I am feeling (Describe your current emotion, such as “terrified.”): ____________________________________________________________
  2. Right now I am sensing in my body (Describe your current sensations such as pounding heart, shaky legs, etc.): ____________________________________________________________
  3. Because I am remembering (Name the trauma but do not describe it.): ____________________________________________________________
  4. At the same time, I am looking around now in ___current year___, here ___current location____.
  5. And I can see (Describe what you see in the present moment and place.): ____________________________________________________________
  6. And so know I know, ___trauma name (not details)___ is not happening now or anymore.

This flashback coping worksheet is designed to help you ground yourself in the moment of a flashback.

(This flashback halting protocol worksheet was adapted from: Rothschild, B. (2000) The Body Remembers: The Psychophysiology of Trauma and Trauma Treatment, New York: Norton)

See also PTSD Self-Help Worksheets

article references

APA Reference
Tracy, N. (2018, January 23). Treatment of PTSD Flashbacks: Can Anything Help?, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, September 21 from https://www.healthyplace.com/ptsd-and-stress-disorders/ptsd/treatment-of-ptsd-flashbacks-can-anything-help

Last Updated: June 5, 2019

Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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