What are flashbacks?
Anyone who has experienced sexual abuse, rape or any other traumatic event can experience flashbacks.
Flashbacks are a memory of a frightening or painful experience, which occurred either in childhood or adult life. They tend not to be like an ordinary memory, but more a sudden and unexpected intrusion. Flashbacks can be experienced as a single slide from a slide show, a snapshot or photograph that flashes repeatedly or like a video clip. A flashback can feel almost as real as when it originally happened and can also be as frightening.
Not everyone’s flashbacks are visual. Some take the form of words and phrases or sounds that were heard in the past. They can be accompanied by intense feelings of shame, sadness, anger, or physical sensations known as “body memories”, which may have been felt at the time of the original abuse.
Flashbacks can happen at any time, anywhere and often occur without warning. They can be triggered by the time of year or day, TV programme, film, smells, words, phrases, a song, places, someone who reminds you in some way of your abuser, pictures, taste, a particular feeling such as fear or anxiety, having sex or being intimate with your partner. These can occur instantly or sometime later. Sometimes a flashback can occur in response to hearing voices that tell you to do things such as harm yourself or someone else. Hearing voices can be very frightening.
Remember flashbacks are a natural response to what you have experienced.