PTSD Triggers: What They Are and How to Deal with Them

PTSD Triggers: What They Are and How to Deal with Them

PTSD Triggers: What They Are and How to Deal with Them

Author: GIA Miami
Published: December 22, 2022

What is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder?

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, known as PTSD, is a mental health condition caused by a traumatic event. When a person experiences a traumatic event, his or her brain attaches sensory experiences to the trauma memory, meaning when they experience similar sensory stimuli again, it can remind them of their past experience. This can trigger PTSD symptoms - even if the current event does not represent danger.

It can be experienced at any age by any gender - each individual suffering from PTSD reacts differently to it. Some people will experience PTSD symptoms as soon as they go through a traumatic event, while others develop it months later. It is important to understand what can cause PTSD, as well as what circumstances can then trigger PTSD symptoms.

What Can Be Considered a Traumatic Event?

What Can Be Considered a Traumatic Event?

A traumatic event is any accident that causes harm, either physical, emotional, or psychological. From experiencing a life-threatening situation first-hand or a circumstance that involves danger. Ultimately, anything a person considers a dangerous experience that negatively impacts their emotions can cause trauma and, in turn, PTSD.

For example, a traumatic event can be:

  • Road accidents
  • Violent or sexual assault
  • Childbirth experiences
  • War and War veterans
  • Family history

PTSD Symptoms

PTSD symptoms can be developed as soon as a traumatic event occurs - other PTSD symptoms can occur weeks, months, or in some cases, even years after the event. Knowing what the PTSD symptoms are can help you prepare to cope with them with the right emotional reactions. Usually, the most common symptoms are:

  • Re-experience - this is a common symptom among those suffering from PTSD. It happens when a person relives their trauma through memory flashbacks, nightmares, and constant thoughts about the event.
  • Avoidance - where one tries to avoid being reminded of what one went through during a traumatic event. This may mean avoiding feelings, specific places, and people while distracting themselves with other things, such as work or hobbies.
  • Hyperarousal - someone dealing with PTSD may be anxious and struggle to relax while also being constantly alert of threats. This state can lead to insomnia, difficulty concentrating, and irritability.

Complex PTSD

Complex PTSD can be caused by long-term or recurring traumatic episodes, such as childhood abuse or domestic violence. If you experience trauma at a young age or get harmed by someone close to you, you might have developed Complex PTSD rather than PTSD.

Complex PTSD has similar symptoms but usually includes other more complicated ones - for example:

  • Feelings of worthlessness, shame, or guilt
  • Difficulty in maintaining friendships
  • Problems controlling feelings and emotions
  • Difficulty connecting with other people

PTSD and Addiction

Studies show that people with PTSD may be at a greater risk of developing a substance abuse problem and addiction. If you or a loved one have PTSD and are considering using drugs or alcohol or already have an addiction, it is crucial to get both PTSD and substance abuse treatment.

What Are PTSD Triggers?

What Are PTSD Triggers?

Some PTSD triggers are clear and fairly easy to identify. For example, watching a news report covering a similar trauma that reminds a person of their past can trigger symptoms. However, it is not unusual for some PTSD triggers to be harder to spot and often go unnoticed until you get triggered and, therefore, have a negative response toward it.

Different Types of Triggers

PTSD triggers can be either internal or external. Internal triggers include all the things one experiences or feels within their own body and mind. Such as memories, emotions, negative thoughts, and bodily sensations. For example, internal PTSD triggers are:

  • Racing heartbeat
  • Anger
  • Anxiety
  • Muscle tension
  • Sadness
  • Feeling abandoned

External triggers are everything that happens outside of your body - anything from the people you see and places you visit, to situations you experience during your day. Specific external triggers are:

  • Exposure to a news article reporting a similar accident, making someone re-experience their trauma
  • The stress of the end of a relationship
  • An anniversary of the event
  • A Flashback or memory of the traumatic experience
  • Seeing someone who reminds them of traumatic events
  • Specific smells or tastes that bring up unpleasant memories of the trauma

How Do You Develop a Trigger?

Usually, when faced with danger, the body gets ready to either fight or freeze. In such circumstances, you might have experienced the heart beating faster and your senses going on high alert. Additionally, the brain can even stop some of its normal functions to concentrate on the threat. This may also have an impact on your short-term memory.

When someone who went through a traumatic event faces a similar experience that reminds them of the trauma and triggers memories, the brain does not process the trauma as being in the past but rather as something that is happening in the present, making you feel stressed or even scared even if you are sure that you are safe.

How to Deal with PTSD Triggers?

Dealing with trauma is not easy, especially if you go through situations that are able to trigger you, especially when you cannot spot triggers. That is why properly managing PTSD triggers can help you be prepared when confronted with new scenarios that could possibly lead to symptoms. This can be done by developing more coping strategies but it is important to choose the right ones.

Unhealthy coping strategies might provide almost instant gratification, such as consuming alcohol to forget but can have a long-term negative impact since you are not dealing with your trauma or triggers.

On the other hand, healthy coping strategies will teach you how to control and manage memories and uncomfortable emotions while recognizing your personal triggers.

How to Treat PTSD Triggers?

How to Treat PTSD Triggers?

A person who suffers from PTSD can learn ways and develop coping strategies to manage and deal with their triggers, but ultimately, seeking help from a mental health professional can be more beneficial. There are many treatment options that you or a loved one can choose within behavioral health services to help accept your trauma while dealing with what triggers you.

For instance, exposure therapy is a type of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). Alongside relaxation strategies, a person is exposed to triggering stimuli. Over time, the fear response is replaced by a more positive one.

In the same manner, trauma-informed care is a medically reviewed practice that aims to understand and respond to trauma in people's lives and the factors that trigger them, so those with PTSD can restore control of their lives.

GIA Miami Treatment Center

GIA Miami are experts in mental wellness and addiction treatment. Our professional team has over a century of combined experience in areas such as anxiety, depression, and PTSD.

Your treatment program will be tailored to your individual needs while also offering luxurious and spacious facilities.

Our in-depth admission process offers individualized treatment to ensure you or a loved one receives the most effective treatment. From Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) to Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS), we offer a range of treatment options to help you overcome PTSD.

Contact us today to find out more about how we can help you live a life free from PTSD.

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