I am 20 years old and I have recently been diagnosed with severe depression. For some time now, I have also been having trouble with anxiety (panic attacks), self-harm, alcohol abuse and suicidal thoughts. Recently, when my doctor asked me about a specific event that may have caused my mental health issues, I didn’t know what to answer. However, later that day I had a flashback – one specific scene about me as a child lying on the ground, frozen, and a guy from my school, naked, forcing himself on me. I remember having the exact same flashback every now and then for many years now. Until now, I always feared going to the gynecologist, thinking s/he may find out about what I had been doing or even find that I was pregnant (despite the fact it was years before I had had my first period). The problem is, I don’t know what really happened. I cannot remember anything else about the incident and when I was younger I also had nightmares about it, making me question whether it had been a nightmare all along. Plus, I would have been between 5 and 10 years old when it happened (I have some issues with my childhood memory) and the guy from this scene was from my class. He was, at most, 1 year older than me. How do I know if all of this really happened? And is child sexual abuse between children (with the same age) even possible? (From Germany)
You have taken a very brave step in answering this question because it is allowing you to dig a little deeper into what may be causing the pain. I typically encourage people who are having the flashback to not worry too much about if they are “real” or not, because the flashback is real enough to cause your concern. Take it at the level that the flashback is real and that makes it worth exploring. Whether it was an event that happened the way you’ve recalled it or not isn’t as important right now as honoring the fact that this line of questioning has opened up aline of inquiry and investigation that may have value.
Let the doctor know that you’ve had this flashback and together he or she can help you determine the next course of treatment. If the doctor asked the question the chances are he or she would know how to advise you on dealing with whatever answer you gave.
Let me restate how courageous you are for writing us here and being willing to explore the next step in healing.
Dan Tomasulo Ph.D., TEP, MFA, MAPP teaches Positive Psychology in the graduate program of Counseling and Clinical Psychology at Columbia University, Teachers College and works with Martin Seligman, the Father of Positive Psychology in the Masters of Applied Positive Psychology (MAPP) program at the University of Pennsylvania. He is Director of the New York Certification in Positive Psychology for the Open Center in New York City and on faculty at New Jersey City University. Sharecare has honored him as one of the top 10 online influencers on the topic of depression. For more information go to: http://www.dare2behappy.com/. He also writes for Psych Central's Ask the Therapist column and the Proof Positive blog.
APA Reference Tomasulo, D. (2019). Flashback of Child Sexual Abuse. Psych Central.
Retrieved on November 13, 2019, from https://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2019/02/17/flashback-of-child-sexual-abuse/
Last updated: 16 Feb 2019 Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 16 Feb 2019 Published on Psych Central.com. All rights reserved.