Does having Aphantasia lessen the risk of PTSD

I am wondering this because I have had a lot of things happen (multiple things that are known triggers)  in my life that have typically messed other people up and I can just shrug them off as I can only recall the stress and emotion of the event in words and thoughts but can’t recall the feelings and other emotions around the trigger event. Yes I will have some emotional dreaming about the event but once this phase has passed I cant re establish it,  and only being able to recall the dream in a descriptive sense must help. 

I have the ability to remember the description of dreams or nightmares and can describe the worst of them in some detail (well the one’s that I woke up thinking how the hell did my brain come up with that to scare the hell out of me). I also dream in a weird way mostly, so will be a person doing something in a dream and for some reason they die but in every dream or nightmare I become an observer of this death, sometimes the dream ends at this point and sometimes I can resume the dream as from another characters view but this is a rarer occurrence. 

As I write this I am thinking about another way of dreaming as a child but that would probably mean being declared as insane or something so probably best to leave it there.


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As much was said by Adam Zeman on this topic in his AMA on Youtube.

But to what degree remains an open question, considering that PTSD is primarily about emotional response I would think it would not necessarily be less common but perhaps lower in intensity.

I do feel that having aphantasia lowers our risk of PTSD. I’ve been through a few tragedies that affect other people greatly, however I’m able to move forward without too much stress because of it. I always wondered why I was able to move on, as some people think I lack empathy because of it. I moved on from that experience, why can’t others? Now I know it’s because I don’t actually picture the abuse over and over like others do. I remember it happening, but I see nothing… so I move on.

In my work (social Work 15 years) I come across many tragic stories….. While in the moment with the person sharing their harrowing experience I am able to empathize and make the person feel heard and understood, I have not experienced vicarious trauma like a lot of my colleagues do….. Nor do I need the extensive support that some colleagues need when dealing with a difficult case. I never understood why I was like this and always thought there was something not quite right about me….but now I realise that my aphantasia is my biggest strength and the best ally. So I think there might be a link between ptsd/vicarious trauma and aphantasia 

I personally haven’t found this to be the case. My aphantasia impacts the type of flashbacks I get, so I don’t have flashbacks that present how diagnostic criteria and tools measure, but I still have them, just with the physical pain and emotions instead of other senses. I have almost no access to all of the traumatic memories (most of my life) which I can partially attribute to my aphantasia, but that’s not a protective factor, it just means I have a lot of missing memories and cognitive issues, which makes therapies like EMDR inaccessible.
Perhaps it would depend on a particular person’s co-morbidities, as my other neurodivergences make me more sensitive and more impacted by trauma, preventing me from being able to recover from anything even slightly traumatic.

I feel that it does reduce the risk of getting the ‘classic’ symptoms of PTSD. This is anecdotal evidence, however I am an aphantasic, a CBT therapist and have spent years in uniformed services and have unfortunately seen some horrific things.

I believe that the way in which my memory works protects me from flashbacks and maladaptive thinking. I also can’t ‘do’ mindfulness or any sort of imagining exercises so its not all good news!!

I am interested in watching the link to the video below as I have been meaning to research this for a few years now and I think that this discussion has encouraged me to do so.


Plenty of people with aphantasia have PTSD (myself included) as you don’t need to have visual flashbacks to qualify as a diagnosis. I have emotional flashbacks as one of countless symptoms. I have no idea what memory I’m in, or what is happening. It’s completely debilitating. Having aphantasia actually makes it much harder to heal from PTSD because almost all therapeutic modalities targeting trauma require sensory memory recall or imagination– EMDR, Rapid Eye, Brainspotting, Somatic Experiencing, IFS, psychedelics assisted therapy (ketamine, psilocybin, MDMA, ayahuasca, peyote, ibogaine, etc. etc.)

Aphantasia was originally hypothesized to lessen the risk of PTSD, but this was proven false in a very large study.

Here is someone’s personal account they wrote about it (though they do have other senses, vs me I am a total aphantastic)

Here is a thread on reddit.

I wrote a multi page story about this and how aphantasia limits our treatments, and submitted to the aphantasia network several months ago, but I never heard back.