I keep scratching when feeling fight or flight


It’s been a hell of a few weeks (years) and PTSD is back with gusto. I’m also acting different than the last big spike in symptoms.

One of the things I keep doing under stress is scratching my chest, the front of my torso. To the point it’s uh… a situation.

I’m not actually sure why I do this other than it’s a response to feeling intense fight or flight feelings. There isn’t a clear thought behind it.

I need to stop and not sure how… other than reducing PTSD symptoms. For now, I need to figure out how to endure the symptoms without doing this. It’s super impulsive.

I've not had this so suggestions I make are from a place of not expierincing that so obviously ignore if not helpful.

.can you replace it with something else? Not sure what that would be but is it the feeling on your body that helps soothe you or the act of moving. If it is the feeling on the body, could you do something else like use a feather or something instead of scratching?

Do you think you could reduce it by letting yourself do a few sracthes but not as much?

Or can you replace it with something else entirely, like walking/running/ jumping.
Something I learned to do was to turn my fingers in and 'scratch' with my knuckles if I couldn't not scratch. Similar sensation but you do a lot less damage.

It depends how conscious you are when doing it. If you are aware, you could try distraction or grounding with something else. If all else fails, I've had times when all I could do was sit on my hands.

In the meantime be kind to your skin in any way you can. And use lots of emollient, if you can do so, to soothe the irritation.
Most people either scratch their skin, or rub their muscles, as part of basic low-level stress management (depending on where the lactic acid and other toxins & stress chem are building up; in tight sore muscles, or itchy subcutaneaus). It’s a practical/good health kind of thing, moving toxins along into the lymphatic system to be processed out through the kidneys and liver.

Up the ante, a bit, and people still tend to diverge (between surface & deep tissue):

chest-pounding / sports-huddle / war-dance / shout-chanting type boom-boom-boom-BOOM! …and… skin shivering, rubbing their hands along their arms/thighs, shallow breathing, balancing their weight on the balls of their feet, western-movie-gunfight twitchy small movements. But both? Are still in the self-soothing cat. keeping people focused, rather than spinning out.

Up the ante even more?

People who rend their skin (their own faces, neck, chest, arms) with their nails, rip out their hair, rocking back and forth, keening or wailing in mourning/grief/loss/pain/fear …and… the explosive punching/hitting/kicking walls/furniture/people storming across an area knocking everything and everyone out of their way.

^^^ So scratching yourself makes sense, no matter where you are in that whole stress-spectrum, whether it’s practical management, self soothing, or self harm. ^^^

Figuring out WHERE you are on that spectrum, though? Gives you tools for redirecting.

- If it’s coming dooooown from a panic attack, or trying to hold one off, or the lingering malaise recovering? Using a washcloth or brush in the shower ALL over (to help move those toxins along) and then pushing fluids (to avoid the headache! as well as move things along faster faster)… can prevent the absent minded clawing at yourself in localized areas. (Whether it’s your chest, arms, legs, back, most people have a go-to itchy scratchy area, the same way deep tissue people tend to have tight necks, or shoulders, or arms/legs). Ditto, buffing yourself with a towel, at any time (again all over, not just the one area) and then drinking a lot of water.

- If it’s self-soothing / focusing? Do ^^^that^^^ PLUS other self soothing / clarifying activities you actually want in your life, instead of this new one you don’t.

- If it’s massively dysregulated rending of your skin? Do ^^^those^^^ PLUS stress cup, grounding, self care, etc.