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Can A Nightmare Be A Flashback?

Discussion in 'Sleep & Nightmares' started by Heather, Jan 4, 2011.

  1. Heather

    Heather VIP Member Premium Member

    Lastnight I had a horrible nightmare. and of course because it was a dream I was sleeping outside in a bed and I heard someone getting out of their car and coming up the stairs and the bed was on a deck. And they noticed me because I stirred in my sleep and then they got on top of me.......I also remember being very groggy in the dream and the terror, that same feeling I had when I had the flashback approx. 2 weeks ago.

    I couldn't fight him off. He was holding me down and when I woke up this morning I felt awful....shaky and yucky inside....i pulled the covers over my head. I just wanted to crawl into a hole and shrivel away.

    Can anyone else relate to this? And how do you know if this is just a dream or is it part of a flashback? How do you know the difference? I'm so confused.
    DharmaGirl likes this.
  2. curiouser

    curiouser New Member

    Heather, ugh nightmares are never fun. Maybe it was kind of both a dream and sort of a flash back. Nightmare's are usually our minds way of trying to deal with our fears, real or imagined, in a safe environment. I think it's sort of a misunderstood form of protection, the mind is trying to prepare you for this fear and figure out the best way to handle it, should it ever happen or happen again. I know that nightmare's can be scary in content, but if you try and look at the purpose behind the nightmare and understand that your mind is trying to help you deal with your fears and not torture you, it may help you to not feel as bad about them.
  3. Heather

    Heather VIP Member Premium Member

    thanks curiouser - words from you always make me feel better;)
    DharmaGirl and Marie E. like this.
  4. Heather

    Heather VIP Member Premium Member

    The more I think about this the more I think that this is related to the flashback I had....the more i'm convinced it was my father raping me......i feel sick....everytime i think about it i start to cry...i can't say the words out loud. I can only think it silently.
    DharmaGirl likes this.
  5. strongwoman

    strongwoman New Member

    i have nightmares every night for the past 2 weeks. even when i was just takeing naps. but my nightmares are not with the guy that molested me or the guys that raped me. they are a varitey of men in every dream and never the same person in one dream.. i get about 4 hours of sleep a night and i stay up during the day now cause im terrified of closeing my eyes! :(
    DharmaGirl likes this.
  6. tryingnottosleep

    tryingnottosleep New Member

    I get dreams that are identical to my flashbacks. Sometimes these occur within moments of falling asleep.
    GreenFrog2, DharmaGirl and Happy Head like this.
  7. Heather

    Heather VIP Member Premium Member

    I woke up the other night and thought I was about ready to fall. I was panicked. I was almost ready to fall out of my bed. I want this to stop.
    wicked child and DharmaGirl like this.
  8. blueangel371115

    blueangel371115 New Member

    I don't blame you. I was afraid to go to sleep for the longest time. I'd wake up screaming. I mediate sometimes. Oddly just telling myself over and over before bed that I'm alone in my room and I'm fine works sometimes.
    DharmaGirl, BloomInWinter and Iam like this.
  9. Iam

    Iam VIP Member

    I do think dreams can be flashbacks. That is how my first "memories" of being raped at 7 came back to me. I think Curiouser is right on..My primary T does dream analysis. It really helps me to figure out what my subconscious is trying to tell me.

    I got on this thread today because of horrible nightmares I had last night. Some of what I dreamed is pretty obvious. Like feeling I am dirty, not protecting the little girl I was from the man hurting her etc. I had one part that is eerily similar to yours in a way. Even when I was dreaming about the man I was terrified of I couldn't see anything, just the glass globe I had recently photographed as if thru a telescope. It was more feelings of terror and "knowing" who was there. Later where I was switched to my parents bed. I was aware of where I was, but seeing the same globe thru the telescope. Behind the globe was something malevolent, evil. I couldn't see it, just knew I was in my parents bed and I was terrified. It feels like a flashback, similar to when I first dreamed of what happened when I was 7. Like you, the implications of this dream terrify me, they make me sick to my stomach.

    Yet, I want to know/remember the things that happened to me so I can deal with them and move on.

    ((((HUGS)))) Heather. I wish it was easier for you, for all of us.
  10. suzie q

    suzie q you get what you give Premium Member

    I had to be really careful when I tried to put my dreams into a "past experience perspective". Early on, I found myself trying so hard to find my repressed memories (up to age 7) that my dreams drove me crazy. Literally, I started disassociating and losing time. Everything was confusing and I couldn't make time lines work. I started questioning my reality and in return, my dreams became more vivid and weird. I kept a dream journal and this didn't even help.

    It's really weird, the dreams that made no sense and had things like dinosaurs and other odd things were the ones that eventually had at least one section that was a partial memory. I could never tell what dream I could interpret and which were just "food eaten late".

    It seems when you have a long history of abuse starting from early childhood, at least in my experience, you have so many different ways of cataloging your memories, ie..smell, touch, audible, visual...some are just a body memory from your baby days. I had stop stressing on what my dreams "might" mean or how they applied to my past. When I did this, I found that in treatment, things came out when the were ready to surface. I didn't have to push or worry.
    Sending Peace and Calm
    suzie q
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  11. blueangel371115

    blueangel371115 New Member

    I had dreams that were identical to the events that occurred. Now they are jumbled. Like bits and pieces.
    DharmaGirl likes this.
  12. Heather

    Heather VIP Member Premium Member

    I NEED A BREAK FROM ALL OF THIS SH*T!! CALGON TAKE ME AWAY.http://www.ptsdforum.org/c/styles/default/xenforo/smilies/mad.png
  13. anthony

    anthony MyPTSD Admin Staff Member Premium Member

    Can a nightmare be a flashback? No.

    A flashback is firstly, extremely rare, and a flashback is literally reliving a part of the event. Everything outside of that, is dissociation... and a nightmare is just that, a nightmare, even if associated with a trauma memory.
  14. Heather

    Heather VIP Member Premium Member

    Yes, my therapist said the same thing. Why do you say that flashbacks are extremely rare?
    DharmaGirl likes this.
  15. anthony

    anthony MyPTSD Admin Staff Member Premium Member

    Because they actually are medically extremely rare. They are more often than not, confused and misinterpreted with dissociative states. You can dissociate to a traumatic period, ie. it is thought based, emotional, etc. A flashback is a visual cue of a period / snapshot, everything is absolutely as though you are literally reliving it, not just dissociating via memory recall.
    AmyArtist, Violet03, gizmo and 4 others like this.
  16. J.B.

    J.B. VIP Member Premium Member

    I have days where I am watching a movie over and over in my head of a trauma and can't get it to stop. That's dissociation?

    And occasionally, it's like I am actually back in the past, I see and live it outside of my head. It's like I'm re-living the trauma. I can't tell that it's not real and not happening now. The last time it happened, my living room suddenly wasn't my living room anymore, I was suddenly 15 years old again, standing outside, watching my dad go up to a house and watching him turn the door knob and walking in...and it was as if it was all happening again. I wasn't just thinking about it or seeing it in my head, it was all outside of my head. That's an actual flashback?

    I'm just curious because you say a flashback is extremely rare, yet I see the word used all the time and all over this forum. I'm assuming that most people consider thoughts/images in their heads flashbacks when they're actually not.
  17. anthony

    anthony MyPTSD Admin Staff Member Premium Member

    Yes... one form off.

    That is more than likely a flashback. You nailed it with that specific phrase.

    Correct... people normally have the two very confused. Combat vets are known for it, as a percentage. There is a difference between learnt behaviours, ie. instinctual.

    Very very rare to experience... and even if you have experienced one, it doesn't mean you will continue to do so.

    People throw the word around because it is hard for most to distinguish... and even therapist use the term loosely.

    I think I will have to find some good examples between the two to help people understand these.
    gizmo likes this.
  18. anthony

    anthony MyPTSD Admin Staff Member Premium Member

    Ok... to try and make this as easy as possible:

    There are two types of dissociation, the first is feeling spaced out, the second is having a flashback.

    A flashback, you feel that you are literally back within the traumatic event, reliving it, not recalling it. This is not just thoughts or memories, you actually completely feel as though you are literally reliving it again / you actually begin to relive it again via behaviour.

    People often confuse a flashback as being an intrusive recollection of an event, which is false.

    Example Time

    A car backfires, the soldier immediately goes to ground / tackles their loved one to the ground. Not a flashback, a learnt behaviour which is instinctual on hearing a shot fired.

    A car backfires, the soldier immediately goes to ground / tackles their loved one to the ground, begins calling those around them names of their squad / section, begins calling in fire support, contact, starts firing and moving. That is a flashback.

    A car backfires, the solider freezes, has immediate recollection of a traumatic event when a shot rang out. Not a flashback, a dissociative state.

    A car backfires, the soldier freezes, has completely zoned out and in their brain, all they see is the war zone around them, feel it, smell it... imaginery people appear to them. This is a flashback, they are literally reliving a past event, placing the people, vehicles, etc within the image, completely oblivious to anything around them, not a memory, an actual full reliving of the event.
    Violet03, gizmo, DharmaGirl and 5 others like this.
  19. becvan

    becvan Queen of the Blunt!

    To further confuse the issue, intrusive thoughts are often listed as a flashback when really it's not. So if you puttering around your house and suddenly you can't stop yourself from thinking about a traumatic event, that is an intrusive thought.

    When I get flashbacks, I have no idea I'm in the here and now. I think I'm whatever age I was when the event happened and relive it as if it's happening RIGHT NOW. They are brutal. I come out of them and immediatly have panic attacks. Not fun.

    Nightmares are just that nightmares. They are the most unreliable thing for any type of memory. You might have nightmares about your trauma but that is not a flashback.

    bec
    DharmaGirl likes this.
  20. njray

    njray New Member

    Question... Uh oh...This is what has happened to me while awake just trying to do some light chore.I opened a draw at the work bench see the almost exact knife that i was assulted with. I freeze instantly (I think i do anyway) as like a camera very specific snips it of assault completely overwhelms me as though I am experiencing the attack all over i can feel the immense struggle and strength i had to use to prevent the attacker from slicing my throat and i can actually see the knife being inches away. but it is weird not like a movie but just flashes but very detailed.. when i snap out of it my heart is racing and i feel drained .. flahback, nightmare or going crazy
    DharmaGirl likes this.
  21. Xibalba

    Xibalba New Member

    This is a very informative thread, and I learned a lot. Like others, I was confusing flashbacks with intrusive memories or dissociative states. In retrospect I have had few flashbacks. On the other hand, I am cursed with almost nonstop intrusive memories or thoughts, while awake or sleeping, for about three years now. And by nonstop, I mean NONSTOP. There's no rest, unless I am doing something particularly distracting. Even watching a movie isn't enough to distract me to stop the thoughts, I can barely get through an hour without struggling with the thoughts. Making matters worse is for some reason (docs think vasovagal syncope) when the thoughts start to peak in intensity, I faint. Fortunately. I get a one-minute warning, and can feel it coming on, so if I am driving, I can pull over in time. But it's meant I have had to stop driving long distances and take other precautions. I once fainted on an airplane and they almost turned the entire plane around just for me... thankfully I was able to wake up and (grunt) to them to keep going, that I'd be fine with just some rest. Folks on airplanes are hassled enough, they don't need me making it worse!

    Well, fainting is something for another thread, but just wanted to mention that it comes on from a flood of thoughts that peak to an incredible intensity, and I THOUGHT that was a "flashback."

    Funny how all my high priced docs never explained it to me as well as Anthony did.
  22. The Albatross

    The Albatross A product of decisions rather than circumstances Premium Member

    I have had lots of nightmares... but none more than uncomfortable so far. A real blessing.
    DharmaGirl and Abstract like this.
  23. MissAntiSunshine

    MissAntiSunshine Shake her, wake her up--I try

    Very informative. I wonder if I should worry that I used to have flashbacks all the time and still often do? They aren't as bad as they were; a few years ago they were more prolonged, giving me just enough time to appear to be a raving lunatic to my poor boyfriend. These days they are more like flashes, as njray said (Rock on NJ!).

    Heather, I agree that flashbacks and nightmares are very different, but I have a lot of dreams where parts of my trauma are incorporated, though a lot of it is very distorted. For example, once I was in a parking garage and a man with a bright yellow suit and fedora walked up to me with a cane. He looked more like a pimp or a mob boss, but I knew that he was my brother and called him by my brother's name. Silhouettes of other men crept out and surrounded me, began restraining me, with "my brother" laughing over me. This isn't an experience I had, but it's pretty representative of a string of parking lot incidents involving several boys under my brother's influence. Is this making sense?

    I think you have to find the memory or comes to terms in reality somehow with the aspects of the dream that are actually derived from your trauma in order to recognize that as part of your dream construction. For example, I realized that parking lots are a huge trigger for me, but I couldn't understand why until I identified that parking lots were definitely a trigger and started thinking about what it was that frightened me. It took a long time to sort of pick up the pieces, but now I have a pretty good recollection of those incidents and understand why I may often be in parking garages in dreams like the one above.
    DharmaGirl and Abstract like this.
  24. Emmie Boyce

    Emmie Boyce New Member

    I have had flashbacks. You don't know what's happening at the time. They are very real at the time. You actually re-experience the event like the first time amd you know no different.
    DharmaGirl and Abstract like this.
  25. Kim500

    Kim500 Guest

    I'm glad you wrote this! I used to think that my mind was torturing me, especially with nightmares, but now I firmly believe that our mind is our friend and is trying to help us. Maybe it is also trying to find a way to process things and deal with the trauma itself. Why I'm talking about the brain as if it's a separate being from myself I have no clue, but it's just the way I feel. Gosh that sounds strange! Maybe I'm losing it.:confused:
    DharmaGirl, Abstract and CrazyHorse like this.

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