Trauma triggers are all around us; the possibility of us being triggered due to something in our environment is always possible. Even though it may feel as though your trauma triggers appear out of nowhere, there is always a reason why.
More often than not, individuals are completely unaware of their specific trauma triggers. Trauma or PTSD symptoms are often triggered by something happening internally, which can be anything from feelings to a thought, or externally, which is happening within our environment. About 6 out of every 100 people (or 6% of the population) will have PTSD or traumatic triggers at some point in their lives. About 12 million adults in the U.S. have PTSD or traumatic triggers during a given year. When an individual is suffering from trauma or PTSD, certain feelings, thoughts, situations, or environments can trigger uncomfortable symptoms such as:
- Negative memories of a traumatic event
- Feelings of anxiousness
- Feeling as though you are on the edge
- Out-of-body experience
- Feeling stuck at the moment
One of the ways individuals who suffer from trauma or PTSD is by learning to identify their triggers and become actively aware of them.
Types of trauma trigger
Trauma triggers can be seen to fall into two categories:
Internal triggers: Internal triggers are things you can feel within your body and mind. Internal triggers can be seen to include:
- Bodily sensations
External triggers: External triggers are often seen as situations, places, environments, and people that can make an individual feel triggered by past events.
Below we have listed common internal and external triggers that could benefit individuals learning if they are aware that they suffer from trauma or PTSD:
- Feelings of abandonment
- Feeling vulnerable
- Muscle tension
- Racing heartbeat
- Intense sweating
- Feelings of loneliness
- Certain smells
- End of a relationship
- Intoxicated person
- Pieces of clothing
- Specific places
- Witnessing a traumatic incident
- Watching a movie that reminds you of your traumatic event
- healthcare professions
- Reading a news article that reminds you of your traumatic event
Coping with your triggers.
Individuals suffering from PTSD or trauma can avoid being triggered by simply staying away from what triggers them. However, the last thing we want is for individuals to adapt entirely to their lives so they aren’t triggered when going about their lives.
In regards to external triggers, individuals can take some steps to manage what type of environments they allow themselves to go into, for example, not going to an event that the individual knows will negatively affect them. However, we can’t control where our past traumatic event happened, and the place may be essential for us to visit. Therefore individuals need to learn how to identify when they are about to be triggered and begin introducing coping mechanisms to help with the symptoms of their trigger. Health coping strategies will lessen the impact of the trigger over time as the individual gets better at them. Coping skills can be seen to include:
- Expressive writing
- Deep, slow breathing
- Social support
The more the individual practices the coping skills, the better they will become at coping when they have a trigger. Furthermore, coping strategies help you healthily prevent the development of unhealthy coping strategies that can often take the form of alcohol and drugs.
If an individual becomes aware of their triggers, it will increase their overall awareness in life. This will lead them to understand their emotional reactions more, making them feel valid and less out of control. Additionally, an individual’s mood and overall well-being can significantly be improved as they are in control of themselves and their triggers.
How to deal with an active trigger
Healing from trauma is a challenging process that takes time and patience. Often individuals feel it’s easier to pretend the trauma never happened; however, it is best to digest and understand your trauma and the triggers that come along with it. Learning to manage rather than avoid.
If an individual is dealing with an active trigger, one of the best coping mechanisms is to focus on what is happening here and now. No matter where you are, try focusing on what you see in the present; if needed, sit down and touch the ground or touch something around you to reassure your body of where it is. While focusing on the present, try to slow down your breathing and take deep breaths in and out until the trigger becomes less intense. If you are within a social setting, tell a trusted friend so they can be there for you in a way that will benefit you.
When an individual is reminded of a traumatic event, it has the intention to completely take over your life, leading to adverse effects on psychological health. Talking to a loved one or trusted friend about your triggers can benefit the suffering individual and the loved one. It will allow you to feel okay with being vulnerable around them, and they will be able to identify your triggers and understand how to help you in your time of need.
Furthermore, some treatments have been specifically designed to help individuals struggling with PTSD or trauma triggers; these treatments can be seen to include cognitive processing therapy and prolonged exposure therapy.
Do not suffer in silence if you are experiencing trauma triggers or PTSD; treatment is available. You do not have to adapt your lifestyle because of a past traumatic event.