Exploring the flashback experience

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Exploring the flashback experience

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Title: Exploring the flashback experience
Author: Milo, Elizabeth Moulton
Abstract: This study explored the subjective experience of flashbacks in 93 trauma survivors who completed a survey. Three groups of participants were surveyed: 34 combat veterans, 31 adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse, and 28 survivors of other traumas. The purpose of the study was to establish a detailed normative description of the flashback experience in combat veterans, adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse, and in those who experienced other trauma such as assault, accidents, rape or injury. A flashback, a common feature of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, is defined as reexperiencing aspects of a trauma with realistic intensity as if it were happening in the present. This study explored the antecedents, triggers, perceptual elements, emotional details, coping strategies and the perceived significance of the subjects' most recent flashbacks. The research design was a combination of a comparative survey design looking at the overall experience of flashbacks, and a multiple regression design that explored at some specific relationships. Results showed considerable variability of the flashback experience within survivor groups, as well as group differences. Five main areas are discussed: the differences between groups in the way the flashback is defined and experienced including different triggers, different emotions during and after the flashback, and evidence for variability in dissociative experiences; differences in the type of memory for the original trauma and in the meaning of discontinuous memory reported by the different groups; differences in perceptions of the flashbacks as useful or merely disruptive and association with type of memory for the event; subjects' view of accuracy of the flashback and consideration of flashbacks as the "worst case scenerio"; and finally, differences in coping strategies and their relationship to type of trauma and gender.
Description: Thesis (Ph. D.)--University of Washington, 1997
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/1773/7833

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