Flashbacks and triggers are natural after going through a traumatic event. If you’re in contact with someone who has experienced trauma, it can be difficult to know when they’re having a flashback or a trigger — especially if you haven’t experienced something like this before. It can be scary when you don’t understand what the other person is going through, but rest assured that it’s not personal and there’s nothing you could have done to prevent it. There will be times when you won’t understand their reaction. Again, this isn’t personal; they aren’t reacting to anything that you did, think, or said. They simply need time and space to feel safe again. Here we look at some of the telltale signs if someone is having a flashback or trigger.
How To Tell If Someone Is Having A Flashback?
1. They’ll Be Extremely Emotional.
If you know the person well, you’ll notice that they’re very emotional — sometimes to an extreme. They might cry, or they might become extremely angry. This is normal after experiencing a traumatic experience. You should know how to comfort them and help them cope with their emotions.
2. They’ll Be Highly Reactive And Defensive.
After a traumatic experience, the person will often get very defensive and angry — especially towards the people who are closest to them — in an effort to protect themselves from further harm or pain. They might lash out at others without thinking about it; this is because they don’t want to feel vulnerable again like they did after the incident happened.
3. They Won’t Remember What Happened During The Time Of The Trauma; However, They Won’t Forget It Either!
Regardless of how long ago it was (and even if it was months or years ago), they will still be unable to forget the incident. They will have the same feelings, thoughts, and memories as if it happened yesterday.
4. They Won’t Like To Be Touched Or Hugged.
They may even become angry if someone hugs them too much or touches them in a way that they don’t like. This is because they’re trying to protect themselves from further emotional pain and they think that showing affection can make it worse.
5. They Might Have Nightmares Or Feel Upset At Night
They might also experience frequent flashbacks during the day; this is because they’re thinking about what happened during the time of their traumatic experience, and they can’t get it out of their mind. It’s important that you try to understand what’s going on in their mind, so you can help them cope with the situation (if possible) and make sure that they don’t hurt anyone else in the process (if this is something you want). You should also try to be patient and understanding.
6. They Might Feel That Their Life Is No Longer Worth Living
They will often feel that they don’t matter or that their life is worthless, because of what happened during the time of their traumatic experience. They may also start to believe that they’re not worthy of being happy or having a good future anymore. This is because they don’t think that things will ever be better for them again (even though this isn’t true). You should try to make them feel better by saying positive things to them, and by reminding them how they are worth so much and how much people care about them.
Why Do People Have Flashbacks And Triggers After Trauma?
1. They Can’t Get Past What Happened.
Survivors of trauma often relive the experience over and over again in their mind, replaying it in their head, trying to make sense of it or figure out what they did wrong. Memories may replay in their heads and they may try to fix or change things that happened to them. Survivors can also relive traumatic experiences through flashbacks and dreams. People who have experienced trauma can’t fully move forward without working through the experience first.
2. They Are Experiencing A Re-Experiencing Episode (Repe).
Often called an “intrusive memory,” a REPE is when you suddenly remember something that happened to you, even though you were never consciously aware of it at the time. This means that your brain is making connections between old events and new situations that remind you of past traumas and triggers. It can feel like a flashback but without the sense of familiarity — it’s just a memory.
3. They’re Having A Dissociative Flashback Episode (Dfp).
A DFP is like a flashback, but with more of an altered sense of reality. You might feel like you are in the scenario, but you aren’t trapped in it — you can leave and return to your normal self. A DFP can be triggered by external stimuli such as music or smells that remind someone of traumatic events.
4. They Have A Complex Partial Seizure (Cps).
People who have experienced trauma may experience seizures or blackouts that allow them to temporarily escape their traumatic experiences — they may even forget what happened afterward. These episodes are called complex partial seizures (CPS). If a person is experiencing one of these episodes, it could be difficult to determine whether they’re having flashbacks or a CPS — so it’s important to ask them if they’re OK when they come out of the episode because it can be difficult to tell.
5. They’re Having An Anxiety Attack Or Panic Disorder.
People who have experienced trauma may experience a number of symptoms that are similar to those of PTSD or panic disorder, such as being anxious or feeling out of control. These symptoms can also occur during flashbacks and trigger episodes, but they don’t need to be related to the traumatic event itself. If a person is experiencing these types of symptoms without having been traumatized in the past, it could indicate that they have an anxiety disorder.
Things To Remember:
- The person may be having a flashback even if they don’t show it
- They may not even know that they are having a flashback
- It can take time for the person to realize that they are having a flashback or trigger. This means it’s important to be patient and give them space, time, and permission to be themselves
- The person may not be able to tell you what happened during the trauma; however, they can tell you what has happened since the trauma occurred (for example, flashbacks or triggers)
- The person may have a lot of feelings and emotions around the traumatic event – this is normal after a traumatic event such as rape or assault, so let them express their feelings in their own way
- The person may say or do things that are completely out of character for them
- They may be anxious and/or angry, especially if they’re having trouble coping with the trauma
- They may have a sense of detachment from their body; this is a common occurrence during a traumatic event and can be hard to understand, but it’s important to remember that it’s their own way of coping with the trauma
A flashback is a sudden re-experiencing of a traumatic event and a trigger is something in your surroundings or daily routine that reminds you of a traumatic event and causes a similar response as if you were experiencing it again. If you ever find yourself in a situation where someone is having a flashback or trigger, remember to believe them, let them know that they are safe, and stay with them until they feel better.