Granted, that’s probably not the most eloquent way to start a blog post. But it is the most honest I can be about the way it feels to stumble around a psychological minefield of trauma triggers, hoping and praying that one doesn’t go off.
In my journey of learning to live with CPTSD (complex post traumatic stress disorder), I have become increasingly aware of how many triggers I have and how quickly my world can fall apart if I don’t know how to appropriately process and manage those trauma triggers quickly.
Learning how to process and manage our trauma triggers is a choice we need to make EVERY DAY to advance our recovery.
Thankfully, because of successful PTSD treatment, I’ve learned to identify my triggers and deal with them before I’m in a challenging situation–most of the time. It’s important for me to know what my triggers are so that I don’t feel powerless and lost when they did rear their ugly heads.
SO, WHAT IS A TRIGGER?
A trigger is a catalyst–something that propels, causes, cues, or sets off the symptoms of PTSD in our bodies. A trigger can be internal (unspoken, like a thought or feeling) or external, such as a song, a smell, a situation, or something we witness or hear in our day-to-day life. When ‘tripped’, these triggers can cause anxiety attacks, flashbacks, the fight or flight response, and a myriad of other PTSD symptoms.
Wikipedia says that “a trauma trigger is an experience that causes someone to recall a previous traumatic memory…and can be indirectly or superficially reminiscent of an earlier traumatic incident.”
A quick, realistic glimpse at what a trigger IS and what a trigger DOES can be hugely helpful when we perceive something to be life threatening. When we are triggered, our body and brain speed up and our heart pumps faster, which sends blood to our muscles, communicating the message that we need to quickly escape. Our bodies prepare to fight or flee (or tense up as if to run). Next, our bodies begin to pump out hormones. It’s their job to help stave off bleeding and keep us safe from infection in case we get hurt. As our brain communicates to our body that some of its functions are less important, it shuts down the part that stores memory, emotion, and thinking.
* Internal triggers include
feelings of anger, anxiety, or sadness
feeling out of control
* External triggers include:
watching a movie or television show that reminds you of your traumatic event
seeing a visual image or person that reminds you of a trauma
certain smells and/or sounds
an anniversary of a trauma or holiday that prompts sadness
a specific place
seeing a person who reminds you of someone connected to your traumatic event