Somatic Flashbacks: How to Deal With Its Disturbing Impacts?

Somatic flashbacks are a type of flashback that involve the physical senses. Unlike other types of flashbacks, somatic flashbacks don’t just involve seeing or hearing things from the past. Somatic flashbacks can also involve smells, tastes, textures, or any other physical sensation.

For some people, somatic flashbacks are triggered by certain sights or sounds. For others, they can be triggered by touch or even by just thinking about the event. Somatic flashbacks can be extremely disturbing, as they can make a person feel like they’re living through the event again.

The good news is that somatic flashbacks can be treated with therapy and medication. If you’re struggling with somatic flashbacks, there is help available.

Somatic Flashback PTSD

Somatic flashback posttraumatic stress disorder (SF-PTSD) is a condition that can occur in people who have experienced or witnessed a traumatic event. It is a moment when they were in danger, or in which they felt intense fear, horror, or helplessness.

Symptoms of SF-PTSD include intrusive thoughts and memories of the traumatic event, flashbacks, nightmares, and severe emotional distress when reminded of the event. People with SF-PTSD may also have problems with concentration, sleep, and appetite.

They may feel jumpy and constantly on guard and may be easily startled. Some people with SF-PTSD self-medicate with drugs or alcohol in an attempt to numb their symptoms.

How Do the Body Store Somatic Flashbacks?

Somatic flashbacks are a type of long-term memory that is stored in the body. Unlike regular memories, which are stored in the brain, somatic flashbacks are stored in the muscles, fascia, and nervous system.

This means that they can be triggered by external stimuli, such as a certain smell or sound. Somatic flashbacks can also be triggered by internal stimuli, such as a change in hormone levels. Somatic flashbacks can be a source of great distress for survivors of trauma.

They can cause physical pain, as well as emotional and mental distress. Somatic flashbacks can also interfere with daily life activities, such as work or school. If you are experiencing somatic flashbacks, it is important to seek professional help.

A therapist can help you to understand and process your memories, as well as provide coping strategies for dealing with them.

How Often Do PTSD Flashbacks Occur?

One of the defining features of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is flashbacks. A flashback is a sudden, often unexpected, upsetting memory of a past traumatic event. The recollection can be so vivid and intense that it feels as if you are reliving the event.

Flashbacks can be triggered by a sound, smell, or sight that reminds you of the trauma. They can also be triggered by your own thoughts or feelings. Somatic flashbacks are physical sensations that can feel like you are experiencing the trauma again.

For example, you may have a pounding heart, trouble breathing, or feel dizzy and nauseous. Somatic flashbacks can be so realistic that you may even think you are going to die. Flashbacks are one of the most distressing symptoms of PTSD.

They can occur daily or even several times a day. They can also happen at any time, without warning. Flashbacks can make it difficult to work, socialize, and go about your day-to-day activities.

However, there are treatments available that can help lessen the frequency and intensity of flashbacks. If you are struggling with flashbacks, please reach out for help.

What Does A Body Flashback Feel Like?

A body flashback feels like a physical and emotional relapse. It can be triggered by something that reminds you of the traumatic event, such as a sound, smell, or image. The symptoms can vary from person to person, but common symptoms include:

For some people, body flashbacks can be so overwhelming that they disrupt their everyday life. Some examples of body flashbacks include:

  • Having a panic attack after seeing a car accident on the side of the road 
  • Experiencing intense fear after smelling gasoline 
  • Seeing a person who looks like your abuser and feeling overwhelmed by memories and emotions
A Disturbed Man due to Somatic Flashbacks

What Causes Somatic Flashbacks?

Somatic flashbacks are caused by a triggering event that brings back memories of a past traumatic experience. These memories can be so intense that they feel like the experience is happening again in the present.

Some common causes of somatic flashbacks include:

  • Seeing or experiencing something that reminds you of the traumatic event
  • Being in a similar situation to the one you were in during the trauma
  • Hearing a sound that reminds you of the trauma
  • Smelling something that reminds you of the trauma
  • Feeling something that reminds you of the trauma
  • Talking about or thinking about the traumatic event

Somatic Memories

Somatic memories are physical sensations or feelings that are associated with a particular memory. They can be triggered by something that reminds you of the event, such as a certain smell, sound, or sight.

Some common somatic memories include

  • Feeling of nausea
  • Butterflies in your stomach
  • Racing heart
  • Sweating

Somatic memories can help you to relive a past experience and understand it better. They can also be helpful in identifying emotions associated with past experiences. For example, if you feel anxious when you go to the dentist, you may have a somatic memory of a previous dental appointment where you were scared

Somatic memories can also be helpful in identifying trauma responses. For example, if you feel numbness or tingling in your extremities when you think about a traumatic event, this may be a somatic response to the trauma.

A Man Feeling Sensations While drinking Water

Somatic Flashbacks Pain

Somatic flashbacks are a type of flashback characterized by physical symptoms rather than visual or auditory memories. They can include pain, nausea, dizziness, and other sensations. 

They can be especially confusing and distressing because the person may not know what is happening and may not be able to identify the source of the pain. Some examples of somatic flashbacks pain include:

  • A person who was in a car accident feels a sudden pain in their chest that reminds them of the crash
  • A person who was sexually assaulted feels a pain in their stomach that reminds them of the assault
  • A person who was hospitalized as a child feels a pain in their leg that reminds them of being in the hospital

3 Main Types of Somatic Flashbacks

There are three types of somatic flashbacks: 

1. Visual flashbacks: Images from the traumatic event flash through your mind.

2. Physical flashbacks: You feel as if you are re-experiencing the event physically. This may include physical sensations such as pain, nausea, or dizziness, or emotional sensations such as fear, shame, or sadness.

3. Emotional flashbacks: The emotions associated with the traumatic event are triggered, such as fear, terror, rage, or helplessness.

Somatic VS Emotional Flashbacks

Somatic flashbacks are body-based memories that can feel very real and intense. They may involve physical sensations such as pain, sweating, or nausea. Emotional flashbacks are memories that are accompanied by intense emotions such as fear, sadness, or anger.

Some people find that they experience more somatic flashbacks, while others find that they experience more emotional flashbacks. It is important to note that somatic and emotional flashbacks can occur together.

Here are some examples of somatic and emotional flashbacks:

Somatic flashback: A person who was in a car accident experiences a sudden rush of adrenaline and feels like they are being squeezed in the chest.

Emotional flashback: A person who was sexually assaulted as a child remembers feeling terrified and helpless.

5 Strong Ways to Cope With Somatic Flashback

Somatic flashbacks can be a very intense experience. It can feel like you are reliving the trauma all over again in your body. You may feel like you are back in the moment, or you may feel like you are watching yourself from outside of your body. 

If you are having a somatic flashback, it is important to try to stay present in the moment and remember that you are safe now. Here are some other tips for handling a somatic flashback: –

1. Identify the Trigger

The first step in handling a somatic flashback is identifying the trigger. This can be something as specific as a smell or sound, or something more general like stress or anxiety. Once the trigger is identified, it can be avoided or dealt with in a more controlled manner.

2. Acknowledge the Flashback 

The next step is acknowledging the flashback. This means recognizing that the feelings and sensations being experienced are linked to a past event and not the present. This can be difficult to do, but it is an important step in regaining control over the flashback.

3. Stay In the Present 

The third step is staying in the present. This means focusing on what is happening right now and not letting oneself be pulled into the flashback. It can be helpful to focus on one’s surroundings, bodily sensations, thoughts, and emotions at that moment.

4. Allow Oneself to Feel the Flashback

Allowing oneself to feel the flashback is an important part of resolving it. This means accepting all of the uncomfortable feelings and sensations that are being experienced without judgment or resistance. It may be helpful to talk about these feelings with a therapist or trusted friend/family member.

5. Talk to A Therapist

One way to deal with somatic flashbacks is to talk to a therapist. Somatic therapists are trained to help people understand and process their memories.

They can also provide guidance on how to cope with triggers and manage stress. If you’re struggling to cope with your trauma, talking to a somatic therapist may be a good option for you.


Somatic flashbacks are a type of PTSD that can be extremely debilitating. They can cause intense physical and emotional reactions and can make it hard to function in day-to-day life.

However, there are treatments available that can help people to manage their symptoms and live fulfilling lives. If you or someone you know is struggling with somatic flashbacks, reach out for help.

There is no shame in seeking treatment, and Somatic flashbacks do not have to control your life. With the right support, you can learn to cope with your symptoms and live a full and happy life.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are somatic memories?

Somatic memories are memories that are stored in the body and linked to physical sensations. They can be both conscious or unconscious, as well as positive or negative.

These memories are often associated with a particular emotion and/or physical sensation. For example, someone might have a somatic memory of getting butterflies in their stomach when they’re nervous.

This memory might be associated with the sensation of tightness or a fluttering feeling in their stomach. Other somatic memories can include physical sensations such as pain, happiness, fear, excitement, and so on.

What does somatic release feel like?

The somatic release is a process of releasing emotions, tension, and trauma stored in the body. It can involve a range of physical sensations including warmth, tingling, trembling, shaking, or waves of energy running through the body.

The experience can be deeply healing and cathartic as it allows for the release of old patterns or traumas that have been stored in the body.

People often experience a sense of relief, freedom, or transformation after a somatic release session – as if they are shedding old skin and allowing themselves to move into a new phase of life.

As the body relaxes and releases tension, people may also feel more connected to their physicality and the present moment.

What are somatic trauma symptoms?

1. Hyperarousal: increased reactivity to stimuli or external events, characterized by difficulty concentrating, insomnia, irritability, and a heightened state of alertness.

2. Dissociation: feeling disconnected from the body or self, numbness or depersonalization, emotional distance, and dissociative disorders such as PTSD.

3. Cognitive Difficulties: difficulty concentrating, memory problems, confusion or disorientation, and poor problem-solving or decision-making abilities.

4. Body Memory: physical sensations associated with a trauma such as sweating, trembling, tightness in the chest, or stomach pain that can be triggered by certain events or stimuli.

5. Emotional Difficulties: heightened emotional reactivity, depression, guilt, shame, or other overwhelming emotions that can be difficult to manage.

6. Inability to Self-Regulate: difficulty managing stress or self-regulating behavior that can lead to impulsive behaviors or addictive tendencies.

7. Physical Symptoms: physical ailments such as headaches, chronic pain or digestive issues that may be linked to trauma.

8. Re-experiencing the Trauma: flashbacks, intrusive thoughts, and nightmares that can evoke strong emotional reactions and feelings of distress.

9. Avoidance Behaviors: avoiding people, places, or situations that may be associated with the traumatic event.

10. Alterations in Self-Perception: changes in self-image, identity, or sense of safety that can lead to feelings of worthlessness or hopelessness.

What is a dissociative flashback?

A dissociative flashback is an experience of re-experiencing a traumatic event or situation. During the flashback, the person may feel as if they are back in the original traumatic experience, although they may also be aware that it is not actually happening.

These flashbacks can be very intense and overwhelming, with strong physical reactions such as increased heart rate, sweating, dizziness, and difficulty breathing.

Symptoms of dissociative flashbacks can include avoidance of reminders or triggers; emotional numbness; fear or anxiety; depersonalization; disorientation and confusion.

Others include intrusive thoughts, sensations, or images related to the traumatic experience; physical symptoms such as sweating and shaking; nightmares or other sleep disturbances.

How long do somatic flashbacks last?

The length of somatic flashbacks can vary depending on the person and the severity of the traumatic experience.

For some people, the flashback may last only a few minutes, while for others it may seem to go on much longer. In general, most somatic flashbacks will dissipate after a period of time and the individual should gradually start to feel more relaxed and calmer.

It is important to note that somatic flashbacks can be very intense and distressing, so it may be helpful to seek professional help if the flashbacks are persistent or interfere with day-to-day functioning.

Why do I keep getting flashbacks of my past?

Flashbacks of the past can be triggered by a variety of factors. It is common for people to experience flashbacks when they are reminded of something from their past, such as a smell or sound associated with a traumatic event.

Other triggers could include stress, anxiety, sadness, fatigue, and even certain medications. Additionally, some individuals may have difficulty processing and coping with traumatic experiences, which can lead to flashbacks.

It is important to be aware of your triggers and develop ways to manage or cope with them. If the flashbacks become too frequent or intense, it may be helpful to seek professional help from a therapist or counselor.

How does somatic experiencing heal trauma?

Somatic experiencing is a form of therapy that helps people to heal from trauma. It is based on the idea that traumatic experiences can become “stuck” in the body and mind, leading to psychological and physical symptoms such as stress, anxiety, and depression.

Somatic experiencing works by helping individuals release these held patterns of tension or trauma in a safe and supportive way.

During sessions, people learn to reconnect with the present moment and their body in order to gradually release the tension or trauma that is held within them.

Over time, this can lead to an improved sense of wellness and well-being as individuals are able to let go of old patterns and develop new coping skills.

What does somatic experiencing look like?

Somatic experiencing usually involves a combination of body-oriented practices such as gentle movement, mindfulness, relaxation, and breathwork.

Through these exercises, individuals can learn to become more aware of their body and recognize how it is responding to the trauma or difficult emotions they may be feeling.

As people start to feel safe enough to explore their body’s sensations, they can begin to identify and release the tension that is held within.

This process can be a powerful way for individuals to heal from trauma. Additionally, somatic experiencing may also involve talking and processing traumatic experiences in order to gain insight and awareness.

What triggers somatic flashbacks?

Somatic flashbacks can be triggered by anything that reminds the individual of a traumatic experience. This could include certain sights, sounds, smells, or even certain emotions.

Additionally, some people may find themselves experiencing somatic flashbacks when they are under high levels of stress or feeling overwhelmed.

It is important to note that each person may have different triggers and it may be helpful to keep track of what triggers your flashbacks in order to develop strategies to cope with and manage them.

Can you have flashbacks without PTSD?

Yes, it is possible to experience flashbacks without having a diagnosis of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Flashbacks are often caused by intense traumatic experiences that can lead to psychological and physical stress.

However, not everyone who experiences flashbacks will have PTSD as it’s possible for people to cope with their experiences in different ways.

Furthermore, it is important to note that flashbacks can be a symptom of other mental health conditions such as depression or anxiety. If you are experiencing frequent or intense flashbacks, it may be helpful to seek professional help from a therapist or counselor.

Does a somatic therapist touch you?

No, a somatic therapist will not typically touch you during your sessions. Somatic therapy works by helping individuals to become more aware of their bodies and the sensations they are feeling.

A somatic therapist may use verbal guidance and encouragement as well as gentle movements or other body-oriented exercises to help people explore their bodies in a safe and supportive environment.

However, it is important to note that if you are uncomfortable with any of the exercises suggested by your therapist, you can always ask them to stop or try something different.


Front. Psychol., (04 February 2015). Somatic experiencing: using interoception and proprioception as core elements of trauma therapy.

B. Macdonald, (21 Feb 2018). Prevalence of pain flashbacks in posttraumatic stress disorder arising from exposure to multiple traumas or childhood traumatization.

Leave a reply