Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Support Group

Find support with others who have gone through a traumatic experience. Whether you have chronic or acute PTSD, we are here for you.

6 Online

Flashback vs Panic Attack

So last night I had what I thought was a panic attack at first. Turns out it was another flashback. So this is sort of a coping technique thread.

When your starting to have a flashback, what do you do/ask yourself that helps you determine that from a panic attack



idk if it's true, but i know one time when i was having an asthma attack they said that panic attacks are when your heart is racing.

so i check my heart rate & if it's normal but i still feel like i've gotta run & get the heck out of there, then i assume it's a flashback.

i guess i'm not sure it matter too much to me which one it is tho between panic attack or flashback. i still want to freeze in place or run & get as far away from there as possible either way. so i have to remember to connect with the small number of people i know i can trust & focus on either doing my visualizations or changing the script in my head to something positive.

hopefully others will have better ideas.

I like jen's explanation.

For me at the present time not all flashbacks result in my body going into panic attack mode even if the flashback is quite vivid

For example, running water on my head gives me a flashback, It is a trigger because I saw someone I knew murdered while her hair was being rinsed at a salon. When this memory replays as the water runs on my head I am able to just watch it and feel it, and I feel sad but not panicked. It has become a sad memory. and sad reminder of evil in the world. I view this flashback almost as a memorial to her, that she has not been forgotten.

I am much more self-protective than I was before PTSD. But once again, find that if something or someone in the world triggers me, I react to protect myself, and as soon as I have done this I feel calm and relieved not panicked. This is a mega change for me from even a few months ago.

My residual panic is often triggered by something that catches me off guard, blindsides me.
Community Leadermujicaptsd

In my experience, 51%'s description of the difference is right on. Yet, in the end, just speaking for myself I wind up where Gheel is on the subject, meaning it matters little which it is. I have to cope either way. That's the pain in the neck of it for me. The interruption and diversion of energy from the present moment. But it had to be done.

Lately the person I've seen posting fresh tips and tools from therapy about coping with flashbacks and panic attacks has been sisterlu. You might consider asking her for some.

I think they vary by versatility. My flashbacks all start with panic attacks. Flashbacks are far from the only thing that can produce a panic attack in me. I think. Typically, I don't get to know what causes my panic attacks. I just ride them out. If the root reveals itself to me, fine. If not, I let the mystery be.

In oder to stay calm as I ride the panic attack out, whether they are just a blip in my day or flashbacks that will need sorting, I start with calming techniques. If it is a flashback, I will need to get more intricate, but first I must calm the panic. I am virtually blind under the influence panic.

A related question that often puzzles me:
Is there a diff between panic and anxiety attacks?

----------------POTENTIAL TRIGGER----------------------

My panic attacks are so very different from the flashbacks, so I can easily tell for me.

My panic attacks start with me not being able to breathe and it really feels like someone has their hands around my throat completely choking off my air.

When I go to a difficult appointment, I take my secret weapon-- a diet coke or diet dr. pepper with me (they are a real treat). When I feel the start of a panic attack, I get that drink to my lips and and try hard to swallow and it breaks that panic hold on my throat and my breathing. I think my greedy self wants the wonderful drink more than the panic attack. I've told the therapist in his office that if I can't breathe, eventually I'll pass out then I'll definitely be able to breathe then.

My flashbacks never cut off my air. And I close my eyes and just go into another time (almost like a state where I am present elsewhere but can faintly here things were I am really located). It's bad in the flashback.era..

Jen, thank you so much. I never knew about VCD and just thought that what I experienced, others experienced. I get it when I am speaking and extremely stressed and it suddenly starts and I have to drink right away because I'm not breathing or speaking. I'm really bowled over to find out all about this.

I don't have caffeine at home except to enjoy a cup of tea and I enjoy white tea and green tea too at home. So I'm not an every day caffeine drinker.

So diet soda is a big treat for me and I use it for my difficult appointments and meetings. I always thought it was my greed for wanting the tasty drink treat that broke the panic attack----I never imagined it was the caffeine that was breaking the VCD attack.

THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR ALL THIS INFO. I thought everyone went through what I did and now I know and understand what I have and what happens and why. Thanks for that so much.
Posts You May Be Interested In:
  • gee88

    i am afraid i'm falling back into a bad place

    I am so frustrated.  I only see my therapist once a week when i feel i need therapy 24/7.  i feel so unconnected to people.  my therapist won't let me text and email anymore.  she says she's concerned that I have a dependency.  maybe she just had too much of me.  so with out sending all the thoughts i just wrote them down. but she stopped from reading because that is not therapy she says...
  • Benitro

    "PTSD is much worse than Bipolar."

    I was told by an acquantance yesterday that people who are depressed are really not counting their blessings. The person basically went from claiming depression wasn't real to saying PTSD was so much worse than bipolar. My initial response was to accept that and continue to try to explain my situation. She got aggressive and basically told me that I'll understand when I get robbed or raped as...