Complex Trauma And Emotional Flashbacks

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Red Feather

MyPTSD Pro
Some practicioners don't use the term at all and don't even link it to having any form of PTSD. It's all rather confusing. For many a flashback is only when you see the images. Since Complex PTSD is being overrided by other ways of diagnosing dissociative levels of PTSD, it's the question which authority to we give our attention to.

I think there are just two ways of seeing the same thing, i.e. projecting your previous experience in a relationship or situation, onto a current one... or experiencing the reality as if it were the past. Being in a flashback suggests that one is not aware of interacting with the reality doesn't it? What does awareness have to do with the term flashback? How much does one have to be aware or not be aware in order to call it a flashback?
 

Jemini

Policy Enforcement
This is a really helpful article, thanks for posting it.

I have a niggling need to comment on a phrase Anthony uses often, "there is no such thing" as an emotional flashback. I recognize the importance of having some shared reference in the DSM for the mental health field, not just for billing purposes but for some kind of shared language to frame what happens with patients and in *some* (but not most) conditions to link symptoms to causes. But it's very important to recognize that there is "no such thing" as any condition in the DSM, any more than things not included in the DSM. These are not generally discrete conditions of the human mind and brain that have been studied under a microscope; they are culturally biased, evolving, highly subjective descriptions of clusters of symptoms seen "in the wild" by clinicians, which have then been grouped into categories in ways that invariably oversimplify and cause false delineations and boundaries where none exist. Just studying the history of DSM revisions is proof that these conditions are not etched in stone, nor are they "such things," but reflect the vogue of (primarily American/Western/Psychiatry-centric) thinking about mental functioning.

All this matters to me, because a concept like "emotional flashbacks" describes something quite aptly, and *better* than the DSM. LIkewise CPTSD itself *is a thing* regardless of the justifiable reasons it has not been included in the DSM. Remember that *every* condition and category and "disorder" in the DSM began as some clinician or researchers metaphor, and those that fit well and served therapeutic purposes well were adopted by others in the field and eventually made their way through the peer reviews and the politics and got canonized in the psychiatric bible of the DSM. Just because that committee agrees on something does not make it inherently exist in some way that a single clinician's term does not exist.

Yes, it is important for terms to have shared meaning. It is a bad thing when people promote vague pop-psych terms to have the appearance of legitimacy. And it is, I suppose, necessary for insurance companies to know what they are being billed to treat. But the DSM is riddled with questionable content that is often contradictory and far to wide open to interpretation, that is sometimes highly controversial in the actual clinical population, and presupposes several ideas that will inevitably be wiped out in paradigm shifts in the future. And there is a difference between a well-described, clinically observed pattern like "emotional flashbacks" and pop-psychobabble terms. The former is very descriptive and indeed is useful to frame real experience, useful in treatment. There *is* such a thing. It's just not in the DSM.

Sorry if this seems like a rant. I am not a fan of the religion of psychiatry. If everyone bought the idea that the DSM describes "actual" conditions and anything not contained therein is not a real condition, then the book would never need revision, homosexuality would still be a mental illness, we could lay to rest the idea that Asperger's Syndrome is distinct from Autism, etc, etc.

I suppose Anthony you are meaning to say, keep in mind that "emotional flashbacks" are not widely recognized in professional jargon and are this one guy's term. Just the phrase "there's no such thing" seems incorrect. This article was very helpful for me and clearly several others in describing something we've experienced better than the official diagnostic criteria do. I still find it very problematic that CPTSD isn't a real diagnosis, since I have it. And I've already been bit by the distinction -- e.g. learning the EMDR may be counterproductive in treating CPTSD, which I'm fearing has been my direct experience. If I only believed in the DSM, that would be a meaningless statement.
 

cavy

Confident
Jemini I totally agree with you.:)

We who have theses symptoms are "experts by experience". How many psychiatrists have ptsd or complex ptsd? by the way I also have CPTSD. So how on earth can they say what patients experience & what they don't?:confused:

PTSD etc. is caused by trauma, being told at the time you are going through this horrendous phase in your life "no-one will believe you" is common, no validation.:grumpy: Some survivors understandably are reluctant to talk about such things because they quite rightly think that they won't be believed. [Learn't from past trauma]. So how many of us have actually been brave enough to tell the psychiatrists about these symptoms. Especially if the trauma started before the age of five which mine definately did, I just thought for many years that all the symptoms of disocciation and emotional flashbacks were what everyone experienced, I truly believed they were normal. So it was a real shock when I started therapy that I was disocciating, I didn't have a clue.:eek:

Just because phsychiatrists have studied to become medical doctors then specialised in their chosen field does not make them God. :banghead:

I am a firm believer that you never stop learning in life. If we all thought we knew everything there was to know, we as humans would never have reached the stage that we have in regards of technology, medicine & science to name just a few.

Here is a prime example of what I am talking about (please don't think that it is off topic because it is important to this discussion). I have had a physiological condition for many years 30 to be exact!! Doctor's were baffled, I was told that it was due to mental health. In the last 15 years of doctors doing research they have learn't of a condition called reflux cough causing severe breathing problems, pneumonia and voice fatigue. I suffered severely for many years until I was correctly diagnosed - causing depression, not being believed, dismissed, attention seeking - which all reinforced how I was treated during the many years of trauma I had to endure. I was relieved when I was diagnosed correctly because firstly I could get the treatment I needed and secondly I now have a truthful diagnosis which is important when filling in forms whether they be for insurance or other reasons.:tup:

This is why I am so passionate about doctors and psychiatrists listening to us as patients, we are the one's who live every single day with these emotional flashback symptoms. Mine become worse during times of great stress, the next stage for me is flashbacks which are instrusive memories then the full on "back there in the moment" re-living the trauma & having no awareness that what I am going through is what happened in the past. Recently I have had to isolate myself because I don't want to feel like that. Who would? Let alone have one in public. I have worked hard to gain insight into my symptoms and to make sense of them so they have less of a emotional grip on me. We are all different, so what one person experiences could very well be different from another as is the length, type and age of onset of the trauma that caused all this in the first place.

Even doctors now are questioning parts of the latest DSM, some disagree with some of the changes. Who makes the decisions anyway with regards to the content, is it doctors and psychiatrists? It isn't just about insurance, it is about patient care & respecting patients. Doctors and pshychiatrists have a "duty of care", how is not listening or dismissing your patients being caring??:(

Sorry for the rant but, unless these things are talked about especially with regards to mental health how can we move on in our understanding of this issue. There is enough stigma attached to mental health as it is at the moment, without us as patients having to further endure not being listened to by the medical profession.:)
 

BlackbirdSinging

MyPTSD Pro
My thought is this. If a single trauma can cause PTSD. And repeated trauma which is apparently called complex trauma can also cause PTSD and there is a clear difference between them how then is it "impossible" for the effects of complex trauma to cause a different kind of flashback?

I don't know what professionals want to call it. I just know that it happens to me all the time. I don't know why a technical term hasn't been agreed on and therefore put into a medical diagnostic book. All know is I was traumatized both singularly and repeatedly and for long periods of time. And this is part of what I now experience as a result. Whatever name whatever doctor wants to put on it it happens to me. And it happens all the time.
 

Abstract

MyPTSD Pro
Blackbird, as far as I understand it I don't think multiple traumas automatically result in what they call complex trauma. As far as I understand it it is the affect on personality, self and the way one functions in general (such as dissociation) that is what is referred to. I think the new DSM is much improved with this as there is a subsection which includes personality issues and dissociation but agree there should be more.

, "there is no such thing" as an emotional flashback
I don't want to answer for Anthony but from what I understand I don't think he disputes what is meant by that term and is rather referring to the language used as a flashback is a flashback. Those intense intrusions of past emotional states are not what he is disputing if I understand correctly.
 

BlackbirdSinging

MyPTSD Pro
Blackbird, as far as I understand it I don't think multiple traumas automatically result in what they call complex trauma.

Thank you for clearing that up for me Abstract. For myself personally my therapist did say that my traumas are complex. I don't know all there is to know about all of the technical and proper terms. I just know what I've been told for myself. And I know how awful this stuff feels and how hard it is to figure out and make sense of all of it. It's a bit overwhelming.
 

Abstract

MyPTSD Pro
Don't trust my take on it though Blackbird! Just the way I understand it.

It sounds very complex and I am glad the article shed some light on things for you. I find it helps a lot to think afterwards if it was really about the present or if it was the past.
 

Jemini

Policy Enforcement
Blackbird -- agreed that's how I read Anthony as well. So my whole rant may be about semantics. I don't think anyone here has disputed that a symptom exists that is the emotional content of trauma flooding back without the associated memories, and his point was that there is no standard term for this called "emotional flashbacks".
 

Pietro

MyPTSD Pro
Amazing that I could be in therapy since this past November and it's just now that I'm realizing I have so many emotional flashbacks. It honestly scares me a little.
I've had multiple therapists over the past 15 years, and none of them told me anything about this until my latest therapist. In the US, at least, CBT is so dominant as a therapy methodology that emotional considerations often get completely ignored. CBT is an important technique, but, especially for trauma, is not enough by itself.

I had the same reaction when I first learned about this -- it was quite disconcerting. Now, though, I'm very aware of when it happens, which has made a big difference in my life -- because I can differentiate between feeling "depressed" and "processing the past". :)
 
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