How to Handle Flashbacks and Obsessive Thoughts

flashbacks mental health Jul 22, 2021

Flashbacks from any situation can be emotionally and mentally draining. They can quickly put us into a negative headspace and keep us there for long periods if we let them. It can quickly consume our daily lives even if we might not recognize it right away. Obsessive thoughts about trauma or a highly emotional situation is completely normal and happens to many people. It can be difficult to deal with and often cause a lot of hurt even after the event. 

Our body and minds all work differently when trying to process abusive or toxic situations and we may not fully understand it at first. Learning how to look at our flashbacks head on, figure out where they come from, how to dispute them, and how to deal with it in a healthy manner can greatly benefit our emotional wellbeing. It can allow us to feel more freedom from our traumas and accept truths we may not have realized before.


Why Do Flashbacks Happen?

The most frustrating and time consuming part of flashbacks is figuring out where it’s coming from and why. You went through something traumatic, but as a defense mechanism your brain was in fight or flight mode the entire time. This did not allow you to fully process what you were going through as you were experiencing it. Now that you are out of that situation and focusing on yourself, you’re at a point when you can start to look back and “unlock” these painful memories. 

It’s important that when the flashbacks or obsessive thoughts are occurring that you take the time to acknowledge it is happening. Being able to be logical and staying truthful to yourself can help you stay present in the moment. Saying “Okay, I wasn’t able to process it then but now I am having these flashbacks to move through it,” is a way to keep yourself grounded. Become self aware about what might be triggering these events and what you need to do to pull yourself out. 

Allow yourself to feel the disappointment, sadness, anger, and any other emotions you may be feeling. By letting go and being in the moment, you are saying to yourself that it’s okay that you feel this way and it is valid. You need that sense of self parenting for when you feel these flashbacks or obsessive thoughts coming on to comfort yourself and pick yourself back up. Your inner child has to have that breakdown and feel the sadness of what happened. 

Detach from yourself for a minute to have a clear grasp of what you are thinking, then you can easily become the person you need to be for yourself. See things from an outsider's perspective, and think about it as if a friend is telling you about their own flashbacks. What advice would you offer to them? How would you comfort them in their time of need? Just as you would help a friend, start to help yourself. Give yourself the care that you deserve and validate your emotions. Feel them and have your moment but don’t stay in that place. 

When obsessive thoughts or flashbacks begin to take over, it can be extremely overwhelming and often feel like you are reliving your trauma. Remember to stay grounded and not let the moment sweep you away. Experience the emotions, say your affirmations, validate your memories, and ask yourself what you can learn from it. Understanding where your flashbacks are coming from can help you face these fears head on and have more self compassion for yourself during this time. Be patient with your inner child and yourself and you begin to heal. 


Understanding Your Obsessive Thoughts and Flashbacks

The first step in being there for yourself when these things come up is understanding where it is coming from. People will often say that these flashbacks came out of nowhere but that is not always the case. Pinpointing your triggers will greatly help you in managing these intrusive thoughts and sitting in a space for yourself during these moments is key in helping you through this retraumatization. 

These things will take time, make sure to give yourself the space you need to see things for what they are. Allow yourself to step outside of yourself for a minute to truly analyze the situation. By blaming yourself and filling your head with negative self-talk will only feed into the flashbacks. Telling yourself that you allowed something to happen will make it worse for you. Always remember that you are in control over what happens next and decide for yourself “Is this story true and what I want to believe?” 

When you start accepting your flashbacks and obsessive thoughts, learning your triggers, and can validate your feelings you can begin to see your trauma more clearly. This can be hard as well, but by giving yourself those positive vibes and motivations you need, you can see your strength and what it took to go through what you went through. Learn how to be your own best friend. Do things for yourself that make you happy and truly be okay with motivating your wellness. Don’t be shy to give yourself a pep talk or two. 

Flashbacks, nightmares, obsessive or intrusive thoughts are all difficult things to navigate through. You’ve finally made it out of a harmful and traumatic situation only to have to relive it in your mind constantly. It can feel draining and deplete you of your emotional capacity, but by helping yourself through this you’ll be able to realize your strength. It’s important to be understanding with yourself and what you went through. Situations like this aren’t fixed in one day, and that’s okay. Have self compassion and love, and soon you’ll be able to overcome this!