• 4th of July Triggers, PTSD, and Thanking Our Vets

    Photo credit: Starr-fireworks.com

    One of my trauma triggers is the sound of gunfire.

    The man who assaulted me when I was a young woman threatened to take my life if I screamed or fought. I still experience an exaggerated startle response because a “stuck” part of me is still waiting for a gun to fire and my life to end.

    But my assault was decades ago, and this is now, and I’m learning to cope with my trauma triggers.

    Sound and PTSD Triggers

    After serving in the 2004 Indonesian tsunami and experiencing numerous earthquakes and aftershocks, our daughter returned  home with post-traumatic stress disorder. She still triggers at the sound of a passing semi truck or a dryer on the spin cycle.

    During a violent sexual assault, a gun was held to my head. I still jump at the sound of my cell phone ringing or a door closing.

    So imagine the horror of 4th of a July fireworks for veterans who served in combat. The celebration that we consider to be our most patriotic is often a PTSD trigger for those who served.

    If you know a veteran who served in combat

    • Understand that fireworks and other loud noises can produce anxiety and flashbacks. They cannot decide to “get over” what they feel.
    • Understand that triggers cause the individual to re-experience their traumatic event, rather than have a memory of it.
    • Be prepared for an increase in nightmares, hyper vigilance, anxiety, and other symptoms around the 4th of July.
    • If you’re a family member, encourage them to seek therapy and talk to their counselor or therapist about any triggers related to holidays or special events.
    • Find a support group that can help you understand PTSD and how it impacts families and loved ones.

    The most powerful way that we can thank our veterans is to find effective ways to help them return to health and to support their families. Understanding PTSD is one important step in that direction.



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