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PTSD: How do I know if my flashbacks were real memories?

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About a year ago (when I was almost 20 years old) I had, what I would consider to be my most severe anxiety attack. I was already susceptible to anxiety attacks at that point but I had never experienced one like this. It began with feelings of deja vu after smoking weed with a friend in his car. I felt my chest become tighter and experienced a choking feeling in my throat. I asked my friend to take me home.

Once I got home, I knew I wouldn't be able to stop the panic until I came down from being high or eventually falling asleep, so I turned the lights off and tried to sleep but I began to have these weird flashbacks of sexual abuse.

I don't know if they were real or not... it just seems really odd to me, because as far as I know I don't think I was ever molested as a child. But the flashbacks were from my perspective, as if it were happening to me. I haven't had these flashbacks since, but it just has me thinking about it because I used to have a terrible problem with anxiety, depression, and eating disorders in the past. I also exuded inappropriate sexual behavior at one point when I was eleven that I can remember.

I've been thinking about it and wondering where my anxiety as a child came from. I also used to wet the bed often (well into elementary school).... I just don't know how it could be real without me remembering or without any of my family bringing it up if they knew or had suspicions... I was never left alone with anyone that couldn't be trusted when I was young that I could recall either.

Has anyone else had something similar happen to them?
I don't feel comfortable asking my parents about it because as far as I know, they didn't even know about my issues with depression/anorexia, etc...
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First Helper User Profile LittleHawk
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replied October 20th, 2012
Hi Maddie,

This happened to me. I was about 20 when I had my first real flashback. When I say real, I mean I had my suspicions when I saw my half-sister's grandfather touch her very inappropriately in front of me one day when I was 15. I have never felt rage like that before. My sister was 27 at that time.

So at 20, I saw some things. But I shook it off. When I hit 23, I developed terrible panic disorder. I had bouts of anxiety before, but it became constant. Still, I thought my memories were false or something.

I'm now 38. I fell in serious love with someone, and once we became very familiar, after a year, I started having signs of ptsd and more serious flashbacks. I didn't know that's what it was. It started with impatience and over time built up to become violent outbursts, during which I would remember more.

Your memories are real - your symptoms are similar to mine. I did a lot of inappropriate sexual things as young as 10 and started sleeping around at 13. I have since stopped a lot of that. Sexual abuse triggers low self esteem and that's what causes us to be anxious in our own skin and eating disorders, etc. Whether we remember it fully or not, it's IN there. Our inner child is screaming to be let out and loved.

I hope you can trust yourself to be able to do that.
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replied November 6th, 2012
I've had hallucinations like that where I could have sworn they were real memories. It occurred while I was drinking beer and stoned from marijuana.
I stopped smoking weed that night because I almost had my 2 friends put in jail for years due to my hallucinations.
The mind is something powerful
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replied November 6th, 2012
I've had hallucinations like that where I could have sworn they were real memories. It occurred while I was drinking beer and stoned from marijuana.
I stopped smoking weed that night because I almost had my 2 friends put in jail for years due to my hallucinations.
The mind is something powerful
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replied December 1st, 2012
I have experienced flashbacks for a few years now. My flashbacks are what led me to believe that i was raped when i was a kid. when i was 17 i started having these flashbacks in dreams, wake up sweating, crying, shaking, and knew they were real but at the same time questioned my sanity because my mind had blocked it all out. after a few months of this i went into counseling. found out alot of my anxiety and depression and panic attacks that i grew up having are all pretty normal signs of ptsd from suppressed memories. and i remember having lesbian sex with a friend when i was like 7 or 8 and i didnt even know what sex was at the time. i was extremely sheltered as a kid and my parents still have no idea about any of it. they only were present for a couple of anxiety attacks when i was a teenager but my mom was on all sorts of pills and is bipolar so she would just yell at me and make it worse. now that im out of the house and on my own, iv only had a couple small attacks and flashbacks. im 20 now and very happy with my life. accepting what happened hells but your going to have a lot of emotional problems for a while. focus on what and who makes you happy. try not to take it out on your loved ones, and dont mix alcohol and weed. one at a time will help prevent stress and you can still have some control over your mind rather then going into panic attacks because of the conditions. Hope this helps you.
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replied February 9th, 2013
child sexual abuse,PTSD,BPD,Flashbacks
I can relate to a lot of these posts.
One night after work,I finished a joint before bed and I had a really vivd flashback of sexual abuse.
This was the first of many and still to this day I have vivd dreams and flashbacks I cannot control.I realised that I was abused for at least 2 years,I remember certain situations, the person, the place.....this has ruined my life.

I had to stop working and although I was always prone to depression and I was diagnosed with BPD in 2009, these flashbacks have made me really ill.
I see a psychiatrist and a social worker but nothing is helping apart from medication.

I think a lot about this, i keep a diary where i write the flashbacks and reoccurring memories, I am able to put things together, and now I can see why I was sexually active from a young age, I spoke to my social worker about flashbacks, and she confirmed that traumatic events can be buried for many years and come forward later in life.I am not sure why they came when they did, I hope that one day I can live in peace without this plaguing me for the rest of my life.....All the best to you all....x
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replied November 12th, 2013
Hello. I am a 42 year old woman and within the last six weeks I have had numerous flashbacks of physical and sexual abuse between the ages of 4 and 11. My flashbacks started about ten years ago. They came every couple years or so. The flashbacks have been accompanied by sensory flashbacks including feeling pain. I really want to know if what I am remembering is real. Someone close to the person that I believe abused me denies the abuse. I believe that person witnessed it. I feel like I'm going crazy. My mind won't rest until I know for sure that the abuse did or did not happen. I see a psychiatrist for bipolar disorder and ptsd and I am also in therapy. How do I know what I'm remembering really happened?
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