Friday, January 1, 2021

Hallucinations & Flashbacks - an Expected Part of PTSD

 

As a clinician, I want to be straight with you: I have never seen a case of PTSD without hallucinations. Never. And we need to talk about this openly because hallucinations make us feel legit crazy in a way other symptoms don’t. Ditto for flashbacks.

What’s a Flashback? So glad you asked because flashbacks are nothing like we see in the movies. That would be nice, but real flashbacks are way worse. They are like waking talking nightmares; intense episodes that happen while we’re fully awake. Just like an intruder, flashbacks strike suddenly and feel uncontrollable. Flashbacks are more like a nightmare than a memory because sometimes we can’t tell the difference between the flashback and reality. They’re vivid and feel unbelievably real. Unlike a movie clip, in flashbacks we can see, hear, taste, and smell things. It’s fucking terrifying because it is like the trauma is happening all over again in the moment. Those of us who experience flashbacks often feel like we’re going crazy. You’re not; this is a PTSD symptom. 

When we don’t know that hallucinations and flashbacks are an expected part of PTSD, we can feel like we’re going crazy and very seriously consider suicide - and this makes a lot of sense. We stop feeling like we can trust our brains and our bodies and we can literally start becoming frightened of ourselves and our reactions. We start asking ourselves, “what if I hurt my family?” or “what if I lose my shit in the Walmart?” I very much get you; it can feel like we’ll never come back from this. But you will.

For now, just let this sink in: hallucinations and flashbacks are a normal part of PTSD. Normal doesn’t mean that it’s okay, it just means that hallucinations and flashbacks are common and not unexpected. This is par for the course; you are not a freak. 

Bottom line is that we all deserve to recover from our PTSD symptoms and get our lives back. Get the help you need.

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