Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is caused after witnessing a tragic incident or being part of an extremely frightening or shocking event. It can not only affect day-to-day life but your productivity as well. Many a time, PTSD symptoms can go undiagnosed for a very long time. In some cases, symptoms never appear after something tragic but might trigger suddenly at night till later in life due to similar or related situations.

While in treatment for PTSD, it might also happen that even after making good progress and putting behind the memories of the incident, something or someplace might trigger it unexpectedly. For example, for an army veteran undergone a war, hearing a loud noise may remind them of the sound of a gunshot. Triggers can push you back to having a panic attack, feeling numb and anxious. This is called PTSD triggers.

Certain uncomfortable thoughts, feelings, and memories might also trigger these symptoms. Being aware of these triggers is one of the ways to deal with it. 

It is possible to lessen the impact of certain PTSD symptoms by understanding what triggers them. Specific feelings, thoughts, situations, places, and memories, you can take steps to limit the occurrence or impact of those triggers, and by being aware and dealing with it bravely later on.

 

Types of PTSD triggers

PTSD triggers can be characterized into two parts internal triggers and external triggers. Internal triggers are the cause of how your body reacts to certain memories and thoughts such as excessive sweating, racing of the heart, shivering etc. External triggers can be identified as things occurring outside your body such as situations, people, or places that you might encounter when the symptoms are triggered. 

Listed below are certain internal as well as external triggers that might help you identify.

Internal Triggers

  • Being frustrated easily and frequently, or when exposed to a situation
  • Feelings of anger, rage, and resentment
  • Feeling anxious whenever a specific thought comes up
  • Feeling abandoned
  • Feeling lonely and helpless
  • Feeling out of control
  • Feeling vulnerable
  • A reminder of past memories from a tragic incident
  • Muscle tension in the body
  • Pain in the body
  • Racing heartbeat
  • Feeling sad and depressed

 

External Triggers

  • An argument can leave you feeling guilty, or when blamed for some reason in the argument may trigger you.
  • The end of a relationship might cause you to feel abandoned
  • Holidays or incidents occurred in the same time frame.
  • Reading or watching the news could remind you of your traumatic experience.
  • The sight of a few people can also trigger PTSD. For example- the victim of workplace harassment, after seeing the oppressor. 
  • A specific or familiar place or a setting where the tragic event occurred.
  • An anniversary from the experience.
  • Watching a movie or television show may also remind you of your traumatic event.
  • Being witness to a similar kind of accident.
  • Loud noises.

Know what triggers you

Different people have different reactions when exposed to stressful situations, and their triggers differ significantly. Identifying your triggers (external as well as internal) can be a great way of coping up with PTSD. Start by listing them in your diary, this way you can keep a track of them, and avoid your exposure to them.  When you see your therapist for the next session, talk about these triggers. This will make you aware and help you be at ease the next time you are exposed or find yourself in a similar situation.

Now that you know what triggers you, it is time to look at activities you could do to deal with these triggers.

  • Mindfulness and Meditation: Mindfulness-based relaxation and Meditation have been increasingly showing promising results in PTSD patients. There are different treatments such as stress reduction, cognitive therapy, relaxation, and exposure therapy, and various other methods that you could choose from as per your requirement and level of comfort. 
  • Get physically Active: People living with PTSD often go through a phase of inactivity and get unproductive or feel depressed. Taking up physical activities such as running, dancing, or exercising can help you to take your mind off negative thoughts and fill you with a rush of positive juices.
  • Deep Breathing: There are numerous benefits of breathing exercises that have been documented through several studies, including reversing the stress response once it has occurred, helping one to be less reactive and feeling calm in stressful situations, and aiding in physical processes such as sleeping better, controlling pain, and helping in the digestion process and many more. Diaphragmatic breathing has been proven effective in studies that healthcare providers often recommend it to PTSD patients to help them reduce stress and regulate their emotions. 
  • Art therapy: As different types of therapy treatments have been picking up steam for the past few years, an increasing number of patients have shown a positive response to art therapy. This type of therapy aims to helps people to externalize their emotions and learn to cope with distressing memories and thoughts through art, such as painting or sculpting.
  • Give yourself a break: Spending time in nature and going back to your happy place where you feel comfortable and peaceful can be an excellent method to help in PTSD triggers. Pursuing outdoor activities like hiking, camping, fishing, or boating can help you cope with PTSD triggers. Anyone with PTSD can benefit significantly from the relaxation, seclusion, after being in peaceful places. Being close to nature and breathing fresh air, easily wears off your stress.

Therapy can be difficult at times, especially when you’re so vulnerable. It’s not intended to be precise and straightforward, it can get messy at times, and you might feel this is not working. However, you should not lose hope and not be afraid of the tough times. Sometimes, PTSD really does get worse before it gets better. It’s natural to face ups and downs while healing from trauma. If you’re going through a rough patch when in therapy, hold on to that hope that there is healing at the other end and you will continue to get better each day.