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Q: PTSD - Interrupting Flashbacks In Progress ( Answered 5 out of 5 stars,   2 Comments )
Subject: PTSD - Interrupting Flashbacks In Progress
Category: Health > Conditions and Diseases
Asked by: spot_tippybuttons-ga
List Price: $10.00
Posted: 30 Jul 2002 17:09 PDT
Expires: 29 Aug 2002 17:09 PDT
Question ID: 47109
Are there any good ways to interrupt a flashback in a person who is
suffering from PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder)? I am not looking
for therapy techniques that prevent future flashbacks. I am looking
for specific techniques (scientific, home-brew or otherwise) to
interrupt a flashback *while it is happening* and hopefully limit the
Subject: Re: PTSD - Interrupting Flashbacks In Progress
Answered By: voila-ga on 30 Jul 2002 22:51 PDT
Rated:5 out of 5 stars
Hi Spot,
PTSD is a complex issue and I want to give you the best possible
answer within your parameters.  There are quite a few self-help
techniques available on the web.  Mother has given you the best that
I've seen in this link

All of the techniques come from people who have experienced
flashbacks.  But, like any other therapy, what works for some may not
work for others, so some experimentation will be necessary.  Also, as
with any self-help program, these suggestions will require motivation,
discipline, and follow-through to arrive at your goal.
Of the techniques described (distraction, ice cube, wall spotting,
counting, and cold water), the cold water immersion method seems the
most effective since it's based on a medical model.  I saw Dr. Carter
use this technique on a patient in "ER" so it has to work, right?
"Sudden immersion in very cold water (below 70 degrees) triggers the
Diving Reflex. The body reacts by lowering the heart rate, increasing
blood pressure, and shutting down circulation to all but the body's
core. The result is a lowered metabolism that conserves energy, which
helps cold water survival. This is also why near-drowning victims in
cold water have a much higher survival rate.
The effect on a flashback is fairly drastic. In short, the brain is
shocked and interrupts the flashback to survive what may be a
life-threatening immersion in freezing water. For this reason, make
sure you use the coldest water available and use a good amount of it."
Any of these processes is an attempt to bring the person back to the
present and twarth the flashback, so it's just a matter of finding an
effective strategy and one that is evironmentally workable.  A sink of
ice cubes isn't always accessible.  One always should have a Plan B.
Additionally, I found this page which includes many effective measures
to wake oneself up and be back in the moment.  They do require lots of
self-talk which is key in disrupting a flashback.
Another form of the distraction method is to focus on your breathing. 
Women use various breathing exercises to focus on something other than
pain during labor.  These can be very effective but learning these
techniques through an instructor or video would be ideal.
I think I'd really be remiss not to address the merits of therapy in
the treatment of PTSD, so please allow me to salve my conscience,
okay?  If this is a chronic condition, the deeper rooted the trauma
becomes and for anyone struggling with this issue one comes to realize
that time does not heal all wounds.
The analogy that works for me is the brain as a computer.  The trauma
is a defective chip in the motherboard.   Every time something occurs
that we associate with the trauma, our brain waves hit that bad chunk
and processing is affected.  If we could only replace that chip
somehow.   The best thing we can do is download a patch in the form of
therapy and/or find our own self-help guidance.
But besides the therapeutic approach with cognitive/behavorial
therapy, pharmacotherapy, group therapy, and traditional therapy,
there is a relatively new (1987) technique used to combat PTSD.  It is
called EMDR or (eye movement desensitization and reprocessing). This
technique has been used for combat veterans, disaster and/or crime
victims and their families with good results.
EMDR was developed by an uknown clinical psychology graduate student,
Francine Shapiro, who had an awakening while she was walking through a
park in California.  Preoccupied with her own old memories and
disturbing thoughts, she discovered that as her eyes moved rapidly
back and forth, her memories seemed to dissolve spontaneously. Amazed,
she experimented with 70 volunteers, obtained similar results, and
then organized a formal research study one year later.
"Research has suggested that the “right” brain is where the trauma is
imprisoned, in a global, non-verbal, emotional memory set, and devoid
of logic and “real” time sense.  A traumatised and, therefore,
overanxious right brain seems to flex its muscle indiscriminately by
overriding new and different (i.e., positive and non-threatening)
input. Neutral present realities are distorted by incompletely
processed (i.e., under-rationalised) emotional trauma, and the impact
of positive “here-and-now” moments is significantly weakened."
Another speculative theory was that EMDR mimics REM sleep, which is
hypothesized to facilitate information processing and integration of
new learning. {}
Additional links for EMDR and PTSD:

This technique is controversial so I'll offer this link as a caveat.
The pharmacology route has been a godsend to many people, so here are
a few relevant links.  Zoloft seems to be the drug of choice along
with several other SSRIs/antidepressants.  Also included is a current
list of available clinical trials.<DISEASE>+NIH
I hope I've given you enough options here to choose from, but if you
need any further clarification, I'm happy to oblige.
Search strategy:
personal knowledge
efficacy of EMDR
history of EMDR
ending flashbacks
dissociative states
coping with flashbacks
preventing flashbacks
behavior modification+flashbacks
coping strategies+flashbacks+PTSD


Clarification of Answer by voila-ga on 31 Jul 2002 14:47 PDT
I neglected to address the power of prayer in helping a person deal
with flashbacks.  Here is a spiritually based link and has many
helpful suggestions in the "Grounding Techniques" section.
{}  Also, this
article deals with CRP or consciousness reprocessing program.

As I think of other techniques, I'll be sure to add them here.  

Additional seach words:
flashbacks+thought stopping
flashbacks+neurolinguistic programming
spot_tippybuttons-ga rated this answer:5 out of 5 stars
Thanks! You have given me a lot of good information to work with.

Subject: Re: PTSD - Interrupting Flashbacks In Progress
From: mother-ga on 30 Jul 2002 18:22 PDT
This question deserves much more of answer than I feel qualified to
give, but I did find an article that seems to address this issue.

"Coping with Flashbacks: Goals and Techniques for Handling the
Memories" by Sean Bennick (Mental Health Matters)

In addition to the NIMH page on PTSD
( and many others, an
excellent resource for this topic would be the National Center for
PTSD Research. They offer the PILOTS database, which contains journal
and book citations dealing with research on PTSD. A simple topic
search for "flashbacks" yielded 170 results, which you could narrow
down depending on your specific situation (source of the trauma, etc).
"PILOTS (Published International Literature on Traumatic Stress) is a
multidisciplinary database, developed and maintained by the National
Center for PTSD. PILOTS is the largest database devoted to traumatic
stress literature in the world. It contains citation and abstracts for
journal articles, books, and other published writings on traumatic

-- mother-ga
Subject: Re: PTSD - Interrupting Flashbacks In Progress
From: rebeccam-ga on 31 Jul 2002 10:39 PDT

My comment is based solely on personal experience. I have found
another approach helpful, especialy when the trauma was such that
physical contact might make a flashback worse.

Assuming there's someone else present who knows what's happening,
gently recalling/retelling a memorable event, preferably a positive,
peaceful shared memory, that occurred after the event they're flashing
back to, can at least lessen the depth and intensity of the flashback.
 It can be a non-physical reminder that the sensory information the
flashback brings up is old, and it seems to re-ground the mind in the
present.  (Mentioning specific sensory details can be very helpful, it
seems to distract/interrupt the information coming up in the
flashback.)  It may not be enough to stop a severe flashback, but it
can make room for some of the other techniques (verbal, physical,
berath, etc.)

I hope it is of use to you.


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