How To Deal With PTSD Triggers

How To Deal With PTSD Triggers

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a psychiatric condition that occurs in people who have experienced or witnessed a traumatic event. These traumatic experiences could include sexual violence, natural disaster, or war. About 3.5% of adults have PTSD every year in the United States.

Although, note that not everyone that experiences a traumatic event experiences PTSD later in life. It is not yet sure why some people suffer from PTSD and others don’t. But a pattern has been studied as to why some people have PTSD. They include:

  • Lack of enough social support
  • Not being mature at the time of the traumatic experience
  • Having a history of other psychiatric conditions
  • Experiencing more traumatic experiences in addition to the initial trauma, such as losing your job or a loved one
  • Sustaining injuries during the event or watching others sustain injuries

Before you can be diagnosed as having PTSD, you must have experienced some of these symptoms:

  • Intrusion: This is when you get occasional flashbacks, memories, or thoughts of the shocking event.
  • Avoidance: You always want to avoid everything that brings back memories of the traumatic event.
  • Cognitive and mood changes: This is when you’re unable to recall specific parts of the shocking event or when you have thoughts or feelings that make you see yourself or others in a bad light.
  • Changes in arousal and reactivity: You begin to display violent behaviors, have angry outbursts, and even have difficulty sleeping.

To be fully diagnosed with PTSD, you ought to have had these symptoms for a month or more. Also, these symptoms must have affected your relationships or daily activities.

The PTSD symptoms listed above can be caused by anything uncomfortable or stressful or things that bring back memories of the past. It’s essential to get familiar with the things that spark your PTSD symptoms so you can cope with them.

Kinds of PTSD Triggers

PTSD triggers can be classified into two categories: internal and external triggers. Internal triggers are what you feel in your body, including thoughts, emotions, or bodily sensations.

External triggers are things you see, people you meet, or situations you face while carrying out your activities. Below are some examples of internal and external triggers.

Internal Triggers

  • Anger
  • Anxiety
  • Feeling abandoned
  • Feeling lonely
  • Feeling out of control
  • Feeling vulnerable
  • Frustration
  • Memories
  • Muscle tension
  • Pain
  • Racing heartbeat
  • Sadness

External Triggers

  • An anniversary
  • An argument
  • Certain smells
  • End of a relationship
  • Holidays
  • Seeing the news or hearing a sound that reminds you of your traumatic event
  • Seeing someone who brings back memories of your traumatic experience
  • A specific place
  • Watching a movie or listening to a song triggers memories of your traumatic experience.

Identifying Your Triggers

Take some time to figure out when your PTSD symptoms hit you. To know about your triggers, ask yourself questions like: 

  1. What kind of situation do you find yourself in? 
  2. What is going on around you? 
  3. What are you thinking about? 
  4. What are you feeling?  

It would be easier to identify your triggers if you jot them down and study the pattern. 

Coping With Triggers

The best way to manage and cope with your PTSD triggers is to steer clear of them. But this can prove to be quite tricky. How do you avoid your thoughts, emotions, actions, or feelings? You can’t possibly try to control these internal triggers.

Coming to external triggers, you can still manage to control them because, to an extent, you can prevent yourself from going to certain places that will trigger you. But you can’t control all the events around you. For instance, you can suddenly run into someone that reminds you of your traumatic event, or you could perceive a smell that brings back bad memories.

Because you don’t have total control over your triggers, the only solution is to devise ways to cope with them. 

Check out tips that can help you to manage your triggers and reduce their effects on you:

  • Deep breathing
  • Expressive writing
  • Grounding
  • Mindfulness
  • Relaxation
  • Self-soothing
  • Social support

These are just suggestions on things you can do to cope with your triggers. You can find out more coping strategies on your own. The more you can develop healthier ways to cope with your triggers, the more you can prevent yourself from indulging in unhealthy preventive measures like drug and alcohol abuse.

Also, when you become aware of your triggers, you can control your reactions when you feel a particular way. You no longer get out of control because you can already predict your response and are ready to handle it.