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Are people with aphantasia less affected by PTSD?
First I’m going to parse out “flashback” to make sure I’m understanding your use of the term. Officially, a flashback is a dissociative experience in which one loses touch with present reality and dissociates back to the time of the trauma. A flashback is a lot more than just cued re-experiencing.
Couldn’t find any white papers but found this lay case study explains how someone with aphantasia experiences what seems to be a genuine flashback: https://themighty.com/2018/04/post-traumatic-stress-disorder-ptsd-flashback-aphantasia/ The first few paragraphs describe it – notice how she reflects back on the emotion and sensations (internal and external) triggered by the fight.
Looking into aphantasia a bit led me to believe that there’s an inability volitionally call imagery like you said, but not an inability to have imagery produced. From wiki,
Zeman’s paper identified that aphantasiacs lack voluntary visualizations only; they are still able to have involuntary visualizations (i.e. dreams).
This study in Nature looked at people with trauma symptoms as a way to understand the importance of visualization in cognition and found that people with PTSD differing profiles of symptoms (importantly less visual intrusions) driven by less rich autobiographical memories (turns out humans use vision a lot in memory) and limited visual representations in memories.
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