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Reliving (Flashbacks, Memories and Nightmares) in PTSD

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) can have a profound impact on individuals who have experienced or witnessed traumatic events. One of the hallmark symptoms of PTSD is the phenomenon of reliving, where individuals vividly re-experience the traumatic event, often through distressing memories, nightmares, or flashbacks. In this blog post, we will explore the concept of reliving in PTSD, its impact on individuals' daily lives, and strategies to cope with this challenging symptom.


1. Understanding Reliving:

Reliving refers to the involuntary and intrusive recall of traumatic experiences. It can manifest as recurring and distressing memories, vivid nightmares, or flashbacks, where individuals feel as if they are reliving the trauma in the present moment. These intrusive experiences can be triggered by reminders or cues associated with the traumatic event, causing intense emotional and physiological distress.

2. Impact on Daily Life:

Reliving episodes can significantly disrupt an individual's daily functioning and overall well-being. The distress and intensity of reliving can lead to heightened anxiety, hypervigilance, and emotional dysregulation. It may interfere with concentration, sleep, work, relationships, and the ability to engage in regular activities, causing distress and impairing quality of life.

3. Triggers and Associations:

Reliving episodes are often triggered by external stimuli or internal cues that remind individuals of the traumatic event. These triggers can be sensory, such as sounds, smells, or sights associated with the trauma, or they can be internal, such as specific thoughts, emotions, or bodily sensations. The brain's effort to make sense of the trauma and process the unresolved emotions can contribute to the recurring nature of reliving.

4. Coping Strategies:

Coping with reliving in PTSD is crucial for managing its impact on daily life. Here are some strategies that individuals can employ:

a. Grounding Techniques: Engaging the senses through grounding techniques, such as deep breathing, focusing on the present moment, or using sensory objects, can help individuals regain a sense of safety and stability when experiencing a reliving episode.

b. Cognitive Techniques: Challenging negative thoughts and replacing them with more balanced and realistic perspectives can help reduce the emotional intensity associated with reliving. Cognitive restructuring, reframing, and thought stopping techniques can be beneficial in managing distressing thoughts during reliving episodes.

c. Relaxation and Mindfulness: Incorporating relaxation exercises, such as progressive muscle relaxation or guided imagery, can promote a sense of calm and reduce anxiety during reliving. Practicing mindfulness techniques can help individuals observe their thoughts and emotions without judgment, allowing for a more compassionate and non-reactive response to reliving experiences.

d. Seeking Support: Connecting with a qualified mental health professional who specialises in trauma can provide invaluable support and guidance in navigating the challenges of reliving in PTSD. Therapies like Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR) have proven effective in addressing reliving symptoms.


Reliving in PTSD can be an overwhelming and distressing experience for individuals who have endured traumatic events. Understanding the triggers, impact, and coping strategies associated with reliving can empower individuals to better manage this challenging symptom. It is important to remember that professional support and guidance are vital in addressing the complex nature of reliving in PTSD. With proper therapeutic interventions and coping techniques, individuals can work towards healing, resilience, and reclaiming their lives beyond the traumatic past.

If you would like CBT or EMDR with one of our therapists, get in touch.


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