As I said in my last post, a flashback is the most severe and disruptive symptom of PTSD. Have you or someone you know experienced a flashback? If so, please get help.
The tiniest of triggers can put a person with severe past trauma right back into the very moment the trauma occurred. The same emotions, the same images, sounds, smells. It’s overwhelming, and there is no way for the person to know he is not there now. She relives everything each time as if it is happening now. And the smallest thing that reminds the brain of the incident can set off the flashback.
Here is a short story of one of my clients: A 28 year-old woman, who as a child, had been severely abused by her father, came in to deal with her flashbacks. She had not been able to keep a job or a relationship for longer than a few months because of what people called her “insane behavior.” No one had stopped to ask her why she reacted the way she did, though she probably would not have told them anyway. More than anything, she wanted to be normal.
When I asked her what had happened to make her decide to come in to see me at that time, she told me that she had been working as a secretary for a university department when one day the carpenter had come in to repair a shelf in the office. He turned on the electric drill. My client froze, then dove under the desk and huddled in a corner, moaning. The drill finally stopped, but no one had been able to coax her back out from under the desk for over an hour. Wow! Talk about disabling.
After she told me her story, she showed me her fingers. At the base of each fingernail I saw a small round reddish scar under the nail. And I wanted to hold her in my arms and comfort her.