Recognizing and Coping With PTSD Triggers

Recognizing and Coping With PTSD Triggers

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition that may occur in people who have experienced or witnessed a traumatic event. Types of traumatic events that may cause PTSD to develop include:

  • Serious accidents
  • Abuse, including childhood abuse or domestic violence
  • Physical or sexual assault
  • War or deployment
  • Childbirth experiences, including losing a baby
  • The death of someone close to you
  • Severe health issues

Many people who go through trauma may experience an acute stress reaction or have short-term symptoms related to the traumatic event. However, for others, these symptoms persist and develop into PTSD.

Everyone’s experience with PTSD is different, but here are some of the common symptoms:

Reliving What Happened

This may include:

  • Vivid flashbacks
  • Nightmares
  • Intrusive thoughts or images
  • Distress over real or symbolic reminders of the trauma
  • Pain, sweating, nausea, or trembling

Alertness or Being On Edge

This may include:

  • Panicking when reminded of the trauma
  • Hypervigilance
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Irritability
  • Aggressive behavior or angry outbursts
  • Anxiety
  • Being jumpy or easily startled

Avoiding Feelings or Memories

This may include:

  • Needing to stay busy
  • Avoiding things that remind you of the trauma
  • Inability to recall details of what occurred
  • Feeling emotionally numb
  • Feeling detached from your body
  • Being unable to express affection
  • Self-destructive behaviors

Other symptoms include feeling unsafe, blaming yourself for what happened, not being able to trust anyone, and feeling as though no one understands.

If you live with PTSD, you’re not alone. According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, about 12 million U.S. adults have PTSD in a given year. Going through a traumatic event and developing post-traumatic stress disorder can feel terrifying. You may have intense thoughts and feelings related to what happened or feel triggered often. PTSD triggers can happen at any moment.

A part of beginning to heal from what happened to you is learning how to recognize your triggers.

How to Identify Triggers

Triggers are typically either internal or external. Internal triggers are things you experience inside your body, such as thoughts, memories, emotions, or bodily sensations.

Examples of internal triggers include:

  • Anxiety
  • Anger
  • Loneliness
  • Memories
  • Sadness
  • Feeling abandoned
  • Muscle tension or pain
  • Racing heartbeat

External triggers are certain situations or people that you encounter in your everyday life. Examples of external triggers include:

  • An argument
  • A specific place
  • Anniversaries
  • Holidays
  • Watching something that reminds you of the traumatic event
  • Reading something that reminds you of the traumatic event
  • Certain smells

When identifying your triggers, it’s important to think about when your PTSD symptoms usually appear. Some questions to ask yourself are:

  • Where are you when you feel triggered?
  • What’s happening around you?
  • Who are you with?
  • What are you feeling?
  • What thoughts are you experiencing?
  • How does your body feel?

It may be valuable to write these things down in a notebook.

Some triggers can be obvious, while others may seem to come out of the blue. However, when symptoms come up, there’s usually a cause, even if it’s an unknown trigger.

Coping With Triggers

Experiencing triggers can be debilitating, and it’s not necessarily something you can avoid; however, with the right tools, you can learn how to cope with your PTSD triggers.

Below are five coping strategies you can try:

#1 Relaxation Techniques

These techniques can help calm you in moments of distress or panic. Some relaxation techniques you can try are meditation, breathing exercises, muscle relaxation exercises, or listening to music.

#2 Grounding Exercises

Grounding exercises are a great way to bring you back to the present moment when triggers occur. They help you focus on where you are and what you’re doing and often involve the five senses.

Some examples of grounding exercises you can try include:

  • Naming five things you can see right now
  • Standing barefoot in the grass
  • Petting an animal
  • Holding ice in your hands
  • Naming all the objects of a certain color that you see
  • Running water over your hands

It can also be helpful to remind yourself that although you’re triggered, you’re not in any real danger right now.

#3 Expressive Writing

Expressive writing involves writing about your thoughts and feelings regarding stressful or traumatic experiences. It’s personal and free-flowing, so you don’t have to worry about things like grammar or punctuation. This form of writing is a good way to release your thoughts and feelings and work through your triggers.

#4 Get Moving

Moving your body can be a deeply healing experience. Exercising offers many mental health benefits and can help you stay present. You can do something simple such as going for a walk or practicing yoga to help you reconnect with yourself.

#5 Seek Therapy

Sometimes you won’t be able to cope with triggers on your own, and that’s ok. Seeking mental health treatment can help you learn to live with PTSD and work through your symptoms. Therapy will teach you healthier ways of coping when you’re triggered and improve your quality of life.

Learn How to Live With PTSD

Living with PTSD is challenging, but with help, you can enjoy your life again. Getting better will look different for everyone, but seeking treatment for PTSD can improve your symptoms and give you hope for the future.

What happened to you isn’t your fault and everyone deals with trauma differently. Some people only experience symptoms that last for a short period, but other people have intense symptoms that require extra care. If this is you, know that there are trauma-informed mental health providers who are ready to help you learn how to live with PTSD.

Finding coping methods that work for your triggers can take time. You may have tried strategies in the past that didn’t work for you, and because of this, you may feel hopeless. Experiencing trauma and developing PTSD is life-altering. If coping methods alone aren’t working for you, it may be time to seek treatment. Alter Wellness Care is a world-class outpatient mental health program that treats conditions like post-traumatic stress disorder. Our qualified team of mental health professionals is dedicated to helping you get the care you need. We offer different treatment modalities, such as EMDR and cognitive behavioral therapy, that can treat your symptoms associated with PTSD. Aside from this, we also take a holistic approach to our treatment programs by allowing clients to participate in activities such as yoga, breathwork, and meditation. We care about helping you. To learn more, call us today at (866) 311-3510.

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