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Mechanisms of the Formation and Involuntary Repetition of Trauma-Related Flashback: A Review of Major Theories of PTSD

Ming Wang1, Jing Liu2,*, Qiwu Sun3,4, Wenzhen Zhu4

1 Center for Mental Health Education, Wuhan University of Technology, Wuhan, 430070, China
2 School of Humanities, Hubei University of Chinese Medicine, Wuhan, 430065, China
3 School of Psychology, Central China Normal University, Wuhan, 430079, China
4 Department of Psychology, University of North Texas, Denton, 76205, USA

* Corresponding Author: Jing Liu. Email:

International Journal of Mental Health Promotion 2019, 21(3), 81-97.


Trauma-related flashback is one of the typical symptoms of patients suffered from posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which intrudes into the body and mind of patients uncontrobaly and repeatedly. Psychodynamic theories of mechanisms of the formation and involuntary repetition of trauma-related flashback establish a foundation for most cognitive theories of PTSD. Cognitive behavioral theories of PTSD, from the initial use of behavioristic principles (e.g., conditioning, alternative learning, generalization, etc.) to explain fear conditioning to the emphasis on the roles of cognitive and behavioral factors (e.g., cognitive model or schema, completion tendency, associative network, data-driven processing, analogue representation, etc.) in the representation and retrieval of traumatic information, present a trend of multirepresentational theorizing. Inherited from the theories proposed by Pierre Janet in the early years of the 20th century and based on the integration of existing cognitive behavioral theories of PTSD, theories of the multiple memory system bring new viewpoints on the representation and retrieval of traumatic information in memory. In the last twenty years, several recent theories have received some empirical evidences both in theoretical and applicational. The clinical and nonclinical implications of the psychological explanations of trauma-related flashback, the ideas of further explorations in the theories of PTSD and the directions of future researches of the prevention and treatment of PTSD are presented.


Cite This Article

Wang, M., Liu, J., Sun, Q., Zhu, W. (2019). Mechanisms of the Formation and Involuntary Repetition of Trauma-Related Flashback: A Review of Major Theories of PTSD. International Journal of Mental Health Promotion, 21(3), 81–97.


This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License , which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
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