PTSD Triggers

By | April 4th, 2023

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) often develops after a traumatic and terrifying event. PTSD triggers can cause people to struggle with anxiety and have flashbacks and nightmares. Understanding your PTSD triggers is crucial to coping with triggers.

Some people can adjust after traumatic events. However, some people keep reliving the event over and over. Seeking help through Evolve Wellness Inc telehealth treatment can help you regain control of your life.

What is PTSD?

ptsd triggers

PTSD is a mental health disorder that often develops after a traumatic, terrifying, or stressful event like violence or the death of a loved one. Witnessing a traumatic event and even hearing about it can cause PTSD to develop.

The emotional, mental, and physical distress of PTSD can last for years and worsen when triggers remind someone of the event. PTSD changes a person’s mood and thinking. They may struggle with intrusive and reoccurring memories, negative thoughts, and hopelessness.

What Are the Causes of PTSD?

There isn’t an easy answer to this question because people develop PTSD for different reasons. However, there are some common causes of PTSD, including:

  • Experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event such as sexual assault, combat, natural disaster, or car accident
  • Being the victim of child abuse or neglect
  • Being diagnosed with a life-threatening illness
  • Death of a close friend or family member

Why Do Some People Develop PTSD and Others Don’t?

Experts aren’t 100% sure why some people develop PTSD, and others don’t. They do know that certain factors increase a person’s risk of PTSD, which include:

  • Lacking social support
  • Being young at the time of the event
  • Struggling with other mental health disorders
  • High-stress levels on top of the trauma
  • Being injured or witnessing others get injured during the event

What are the Criteria for a PTSD Diagnosis?

People struggling with PTSD experience a multitude of symptoms. However, to be diagnosed with this mental illness, you must have certain symptoms that fall into four categories. They include:

  • Intrusion – flashbacks, intrusive thoughts, or nightmares of the event
  • Avoidance – staying clear of anything that reminds you of the event
  • Cognitive and mood changes – not remembering important parts of the event, having negative thoughts or feelings about yourself or others
  • Changes in reactivity and arousal – irritability, angry outbursts, self-destructive and reckless behaviors, or difficulty sleeping

To receive a PTSD diagnosis, symptoms must last at least one month and interfere with daily function and relationships. Reminders of the event can trigger the above symptoms. It’s crucial to know your PTSD triggers to manage them better.

What are PTSD Triggers?

PTSD triggers can be anything that reminds a person of a traumatic event. For example, a flashback can happen due to a trigger. Flashbacks make them feel like they are back in that moment. This includes reliving the emotions or sensations felt during the event.

Examples of real-life PTSD triggers include:

  • Loud Sounds – Being in combat can make you jumpy or easily alarmed. An unexpected car backfiring or fireworks going off can trigger your PTSD.
  • Visual images – Seeing a knife may remind you of being mugged.
  • Smells – The smell of whiskey may remind you of alcohol on your attacker’s breath.
  • Colors – Seeing a car the same color as the one that hit you can be a PTSD trigger.
  • Tastes – Eating spicy foods may trigger a memory of when an abuser made you eat spicy foods.
  • Weather – A bad thunderstorm can trigger memories of losing your home in a tornado.
  • People – Passing a person with similar traits to your attacker can be a trigger.
  • Angry voices – When people raise their voices, it can bring you back to being verbally abused as a child.
  • Places – Going to the lake might trigger your PTSD from when you almost drowned.
  • Touch – Someone touching your shoulder can remind you of being sexually abused.
  • Situations – After a cancer diagnosis, routine medical appointments may trigger your PTSD.
  • Words – Hearing words or phrases, even “I love you,” spoken during physical or sexual abuse can take you back to that moment.
  • Anniversaries – Anniversaries of traumatic events can bring up many memories and emotions that are PTSD triggers.

Identifying PTSD Triggers

Identifying what triggers your PTSD isn’t always obvious. Some people aren’t aware of what sets off their fear and anger, especially if they have sensory triggers such as smells, tastes, or colors.

The ability to recognize PTSD triggers at the time they occur is different for everyone. Some people are avoidant or fearful, while others become angry, aggressive, or panicked. If you struggle to recognize your triggers, help is available.

Individual therapy can help if you struggle to identify your triggers. An online or telehealth outpatient program allows people to attend therapy from the comfort and safety of their homes.

Coping with PTSD Triggers

Avoiding PTSD triggers is not a healthy and long-term way to cope with PTSD. The most common and effective treatment for PTSD is exposing people to their triggers. With the help of a therapist, this can remove the trigger from the traumatic event and see it in the present, where it holds no association.

Coping with PTSD triggers looks different for everyone. People use peer support groups, mindfulness, yoga, or emotional support animals to cope. Using a combination of coping strategies along with various therapies can be beneficial.

Treatment options for coping with PTSD triggers include:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
  • Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR)
  • Prolonged exposure therapy
  • Medication-assisted treatment (MAT)
  • Group therapy
  • Family therapy

Coping with PTSD triggers is challenging. Online telehealth mental health treatment can help you learn healthy coping skills for PTSD triggers.

How to Cope with PTSD Triggers

When something triggers your PTSD, you return to the traumatic event. Once you recognize your triggers, you can learn healthy coping and grounding skills to bring yourself back to the present moment.

Coping Skills

Coping skills help manage your trauma response as it happens. For example, you become extremely scared and freeze. By using deep breathing exercises, you can calm your reactions and bring yourself to the present moment.

Other common coping skills for PTSD triggers include:

  • Relaxation techniques – breathing exercises, meditation, yoga, listening to soft music, or taking a walk in nature
  • Positive thoughts – picturing a smile on a loved one’s face, sunsets, or flowers
  • Positive distractions – get involved in creative activities such as music or art, write in a journal, or watch a comedy
  • Give your brain a distraction – count backward from 100 or list things that start with ‘A.’
  • Be active – go for a walk, dance around your room, play a game like ping-pong, or go bowling

Always talk to someone you trust if you are struggling with your PTSD triggers. This helps you feel heard, understood, and less alone. If you don’t feel like you have someone to talk to, online mental health therapy can help support you through it.

Grounding Exercises

When PTSD triggers occur, grounding exercises help bring you back to the present. They allow you to focus on where you are typically by using your body. Focusing on the five senses is one way of grounding yourself during a PTSD trigger.

For example:

  • Name five things you can see right this moment, such as your bed and the wall
  • Name four things you can feel right now, such as the breeze from the fan on your face
  • Name three things you can hear right now, such as the tv or birds singing
  • Name two things you can smell right now, such as perfume or food
  • Name one thing you can taste right now, such as candy or your toothpaste

Other ways to use your senses when coping with PTSD triggers include:

  • Petting an animal
  • Using a weighted blanket
  • Holding ice in your hands
  • Sucking on sour candy
  • Feeling the ground beneath your feet
  • Using a stress ball
  • Running warm water over your hands

Some people benefit from reminding themselves of the time, date, year, and current location. Stating, “I am triggered,” can also remind you you’re not in danger.

What are the Benefits of Managing Common PTSD Triggers?

managing ptsd

The benefits of treating PTSD can be endless. It can help people regain control of their lives and improve their well-being. Therapy can help reduce symptoms and improve work and home life.

Therapy also helps people understand and recognize their PTSD triggers. This helps in building healthy coping skills for PTSD triggers. With the skills learned in treatment, you will know when you’re being triggered and how to manage your PTSD triggers.

Additionally, online therapy increases self-awareness and self-confidence. Many people struggling with PTSD battle feelings of shame, guilt, and worthlessness.

All these feelings are addressed in individual therapy and are replaced with healthy ones. As the tools for coping with PTSD triggers are built, the more empowered people will feel.

Treatment offers many long-term benefits if you struggle with PTSD triggers. Therapists can help you understand and begin coping with PTSD triggers in a healthy way.

How Evolve Wellness Inc can Assist Individuals Struggling with PTSD

If you or a loved one is struggling with PTSD, you are not alone. At Evolve Wellness Inc, our telehealth therapy services provide treatment in the privacy and safety of your own home. Contact our team today and start living the life you deserve.

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