A flashback, refers to a psychological phenomenon in which an individual has a sudden, usually powerful, re-experiencing of a past experience or elements of a past experience. 

In psychology, a flashback is a psychological phenomenon where an individual experiences a vivid and involuntary recollection of a past traumatic event. 

This can be triggered by various stimuli, such as sights, sounds, or smells, that are reminiscent of the original trauma. 

Flashbacks can be distressing and may lead to feelings of fear, anxiety, or helplessness as if the person is reliving the traumatic event. 

They are often associated with conditions like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) but can also occur in other situations.

These experiences can be frightful, happy, sad, exciting, or other emotions.

The term is used when the memory is recalled involuntarily, especially when it is so intense that the person feels they are reliving the experience, and is unable to fully recognize it as memory of a past experience and not something that is happening in real time.

They are personal experiences that pop into ones awareness, without any conscious, premeditated attempt to search and retrieve this memory.

Flashback experiences occasionally have little to no relation to the situation at hand. 

For those suffering post-traumatic stress disorder, flashbacks can significantly disrupt everyday life.

Memory is divided into voluntary or conscious and involuntary or unconscious processes that function independently of each other.

There are 3/classified classes of memory: sensory, short-term, and long-term memory.

Sensory memory is made up of a brief storage of information within a specific medium.

Short term memory is made up of the information currently in use to complete the task at hand.

Long term memory is composed of the systems used to store memory over long periods.

Flashbacks have been identified as symptoms for many disorders, including PTSD.

The flashback phenomenon is in part due to the manner in which memories of specific events are initially entered into memory, the way the memory is organized, and also the way in which the individual later recalls the event.

The special mechanism view of flashbacks is clinically oriented in that it holds that involuntary memories are due to traumatic events, and the memories for these events can be attributed to a special memory mechanism. 

The basic mechanism of flashbacks holds that traumatic memories are bound by the same parameters as all other every-day memories. 

The involuntary recurrent memories result from rare events that would not normally occur, and elicit strong emotional reactions from the individual, since they violate normal expectations.

In the special mechanism view, the event would lead to fragmented voluntary encoding into memory, thus making the conscious subsequent retrieval of the memory much more difficult. 

The involuntary recurrent memories are likely to become more available, and these are more likely to be triggered by external cues. 

The basic mechanism view holds that the traumatic event would lead to enhanced and cohesive encoding of the event in memory, making both voluntary and involuntary memories more available for subsequent recall.

People who suffer from flashbacks lose all sense of time and place, and they feel as if they are re-experiencing the event instead of just recalling a memory.

This is consistent with an involuntary memory is based on a different memory mechanism compared to the voluntary counterpart. 

The memory is of a traumatic event’s nature of the flashbacks experienced by an individual are static in that they retain an identical form upon each intrusion.

Involuntary memories are usually derived from either stimuli that indicated the onset of a traumatic event, or from stimuli that hold intense emotional significance to the individual simply because they were closely associated with the trauma during the time of the event.

Such stimuli then become warning signals that, if encountered again, serve to trigger a flashback: the warning signal hypothesis. 

It is suggested traumatic memories are more apt to induce flashbacks because of faulty encoding that cause the individual to fail in taking contextual information into account, as well as time and place information that would usually be associated with everyday memories.

Such individuals become sensitized to stimuli that they associate with the traumatic event, which then serve as triggers for a flashback, even if the context surrounding the stimulus may be unrelated. 

These triggers may elicit an adaptive response during the time of the traumatic experience, but they become maladaptive if the person continues to respond in the same way to situations in which no danger may be present.

Out of the participants who suffer from flashbacks, about 5 percent of them experience positive non-traumatic flashbacks. 

They experience the same intensity level and has the same retrieval mechanism as the people who experienced negative and/or traumatic flashbacks, including the vividness and the emotion related to the involuntary memory: the only difference is whether the emotion evoked is positive or negative.

Memory has typically been divided into sensory, short-term, and long-term processes: sensory details related to an intense intrusive memory, may cause flashbacks.

Such sensory experiences take place just before the flashback event, and are a conditioning stimulus for the event to appear as an involuntary memory. 

Of the three types of memory processes, long-term memory contains the greatest amount of memory storage and is involved in most of the cognitive processes. 

Memory process most related to flashbacks is long term memory. 

Compared to voluntary memories, involuntary memories show shorter retrieval times and little cognitive effort. 

Involuntary memories arise due to automatic processing, which does not rely on higher-order cognitive monitoring, or executive control processing. 

Usually voluntary memory is associated with contextual information, allowing correspondence between time and place to happen:

This is not true for flashbacks, as they are disconnected from contextual information, and as a result are disconnected from time and place.

For flashbacks, most of the emotions associated with it are negative, though it could be positive as well. 

These flashback emotions are intense and makes the memory more vivid. 

Brain regions implicated in the neurological basis of flashbacks:

medial temporal lobes, the precuneus, the posterior cingulate gyrus and the prefrontal cortex are the most typically referenced with regards to involuntary memories.

The specific causes of flashbacks have not yet been confirmed. 

The persistence of severely traumatic autobiographical memories can last up to 65 years. 

Neuroimaging techniques have been applied to the investigation of flashbacks: patients with PTSD as they undergo flashbacks have identified elevated activation in regions of the dorsal stream including the mid-occipital lobe, primary motor cortex, and supplementary motor area.

The dorsal stream is involved in sensory processing, and might underlie the vivid visual experiences associated with flashbacks. 

There is reduced activation in regions such as the inferior temporal cortex and parahippocampus which are involved in processing dissociation from reality during flashback experiences.

Flashbacks are often associated with mental illness as they are a symptom and a feature in diagnostic criteria for PTSD, acute stress disorder, and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).

Flashbacks have also been noted  in patients suffering from bipolar disorder, depression, homesickness, near-death experiences, epileptic seizures, and substance abuse.

The use of some drugs can cause a person to experience flashbacks: LSD, Nabilone, cannabinoids.

Medications: antidepressants or antianxiety drugs, can alleviate symptoms of flashbacks, such as anxiety, depression, or sleep disturbances.

Medications can be used in conjunction with psychotherapy.

A combination of different treatments is most effective in reducing the frequency and impact of flashbacks: CBT, exposure therapy , mindfulness-based therapies, and medications.

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