Ways To Deal With Ptsd Triggers
August 2, 2022 By Kim Rosenthal, MD
We all come across things that trigger difficult memories, but for people with PTSD, these memories jumpstart a cascade of internal events that washes on panic, horror, or rage.
Then there are the triggered thoughts. Sometimes theyre clear and distressing , at other times a jumbled mess of painful words and images that dont materialize into something cohesive.
The feelings and thoughts leave the sufferer in a horrible place. Their world tips sideways and they feel like theyre slipping off the edge.
In PTSD, these memories are linked to traumatic events from the past, a castrophic moment in life that balloons out of control every time theres a trigger.
So how does a person with PTSD navigate through these triggers? Here are some methods that can help with those difficult moments.
Immediate rescue: ground yourself.
Grounding is a technique that brings attention back to the present, allowing you to create space between the effect of the trigger and you. Its a profoundly effective do-it-yourself intervention that everyone with PTSD should have in their toolbox.
Triggers carry us to the past, a roller-coaster trip of places we dont want to go. They also make us worry about a doubtful future. Everything looks bleak. When this happens, when the past is so painful its intolerable and the future is so scary youre not ready to go there, focus on the now.
Preventing: rewrite those thoughts.
Identify the trigger and problem thought
How To Calm Cptsd Triggers Instantly
When you have Childhood PTSD, there is nothing worse than being in some crucial conversation or some big moment, and some little thing triggers you. And even though you know its not worth getting upset about, it happens anyway. Its like you can feel it spreading through your body the feeling of adrenaline and dyscombobulation, feeling numb in your hands or your face, or having trouble expressing your thoughts. Or you might feel flooded with emotion like panic or rage have you ever had that? I used to get this all the time.I didnt even know what it was!
I want to teach you a little about what causes this in people who had childhood trauma, and give you some quick tips to calm your triggers almost instantly.
Theres a word for this sudden kind of stress inside. Its called dysregulation, and its really common for people who had trauma in childhood. It involves your brain waves and some of your body systems getting irregular and out of sync when certain triggers happen. Some triggers you could probably control if you absolutely had to, but others you cant or not right away.
If you get dysregulated, youve probably figured out how to feel OK-ish while youre dysregulated, but as Im sure youve noticed, it can make it really hard to think and focus and set boundaries and navigate your life. When youre dysregulated, only part of your brain is working.
The good news is, you can learn to make it stop, and I can teach you that.
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Men and women with Complex PTSD do recover. And your chances improve greatly when you work with a complex ptsd therapist. With the right tools and the right guidance, you can too. Please visit my trauma page, if you would like to learn more about how I can help you with Complex PTSD.
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How Can You Recognize Triggers
Some are obvious. Others are subtle. In fact, you may not realize something is a trigger until you have a reaction. It may seem like your PTSD symptoms come out of the blue. But theyâre usually caused by an unknown trigger.
Feeling as if youâre in danger is a sign that youâve experienced a PTSD trigger. A therapist can help you identify yours. They can also help you learn ways to cope.
How Ongoing Trauma Interrupts Healing
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Create A Trigger Prevention Plan
If you experience PTSD triggers, create a prevention plan that includes them. Also, create a plan for how you can contend with them if they do arise. You might want to have a person in place to call for support or carry a list of coping techniques to pull out at any moment. Or, utilize smartphone apps that have certain songs, meditations, or podcasts, which are useful to you. A safety plan can certainly help manage PTSD symptoms.
Do Children React Differently Than Adults
Children and teens can have extreme reactions to trauma, but some of their symptoms may not be the same as adults. Symptoms sometimes seen in very young children , these symptoms can include:
- Wetting the bed after having learned to use the toilet
- Forgetting how to or being unable to talk
- Acting out the scary event during playtime
- Being unusually clingy with a parent or other adult
Older children and teens are more likely to show symptoms similar to those seen in adults. They may also develop disruptive, disrespectful, or destructive behaviors. Older children and teens may feel guilty for not preventing injury or deaths. They may also have thoughts of revenge.
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Cognitive Behavioural Therapy For Post
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy or CBT is considered to be one of the leading psychological treatments for post-traumatic stress. All of our online courses use CBT strategies to help ease symptoms. Click below to see if CBT can help you tackle your symptoms to improve the way you feel.
Strategies for Managing Post-Traumatic Stress
People with PTSD often feel stressed, nauseous, tense, and irritable. This is generally because the traumatic thing they experienced has made them feel vulnerable to danger their mind feels like it needs to be on high alertat all times. Relaxation strategies can help reduce the physical symptoms of stress and help people with PTSD start to feel safe again. These can be formal therapeutic strategies, like progressive muscle relaxation or deep breathing, or the things that people normally do to relax, like yoga, aromatherapy, or having a warm bath.
Coping with Symptoms of PTSD
Its generally recommended that people with PTSD seek professional help. However, some of the below strategies may help you manage some PTSD symptoms.
What Can I Do If I Am Not Happy With My Treatment
If you are not happy with your treatment you can:
- talk to your doctor about your treatment options,
- ask for a second opinion,
- ask a relative, friend or advocate to help you speak your doctor,
- contact Patient Advice and Liaison Service , or
- make a complaint.
There is more information about these options below.
You should first speak to your doctor about your treatment. Explain why you are not happy with it. You could ask what other treatments you could try.
Tell your doctor if there is a type of treatment that you would like to try. Doctors should listen to your preference. If you are not given this treatment, ask your doctor to explain why it is not suitable for you.
A second opinion means that you would like a different doctor to give their opinion about what treatment you should have. You can also ask for a second opinion if you disagree with your diagnosis.
You dont have a legal right to a second opinion. But your doctor should listen to your reason for wanting a second opinion.
An advocate is independent from the mental health service. They are free to use. They can be useful if you find it difficult to get your views heard.
There are different types of advocates available. Community advocates can support you to get a health professional to listen to your concerns. And help you to get the treatment that you would like.
You can find out more about:
Getting Professional Help For Ptsd
If you suspect that you or a loved one has post-traumatic stress disorder, its important to seek help right away. The sooner PTSD is treated, the easier it is to overcome. If youre reluctant to seek help, keep in mind that PTSD is not a sign of weakness, and the only way to overcome it is to confront what happened to you and learn to accept it as a part of your past. This process is much easier with the guidance and support of an experienced therapist or doctor.
Its only natural to want to avoid painful memories and feelings. But if you try to numb yourself and push your memories away, PTSD will only get worse. You cant escape your emotions completelythey emerge under stress or whenever you let down your guardand trying to do so is exhausting. The avoidance will ultimately harm your relationships, your ability to function, and the quality of your life.
Why you should seek help for PTSD
Early treatment is better. Symptoms of PTSD may get worse. Dealing with them now might help stop them from getting worse in the future. Finding out more about what treatments work, where to look for help, and what kind of questions to ask can make it easier to get help and lead to better outcomes.
PTSD symptoms can change family life. PTSD symptoms can get in the way of your family life. You may find that you pull away from loved ones, are not able to get along with people, or that you are angry or even violent. Getting help for your PTSD can help improve your family life.
What Is Flashback Halting Protocol
Triggers can make it feel like you are living the traumatic event all over again. The flashback halting protocol aims to halt the flashback and bring you back to the present moment. This can help your mind and body realize that the trauma isnt actually happening anymore.
Next time you find yourself faced with a flashback, try reading and answering these questions to yourself:
- Right now, I am feeling _____ .
- And I am sensing in my body_____ .
- Because I am remembering _____ .
- And at the same time, it is now _____ .
- And I am here at _____ .
- And I can see _____ .
- And so I know that _____ is not happening now.
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Talk To Someone Who Understands
This is the foremost step when it comes to overcoming your PTSD triggers. You need to have someone to talk to, who understands what you are going through and can help you work through it. This could be a therapist, doctor, or even a friend or family member. Talking about your triggers and what sets them off can help you to better understand them and work on ways to avoid them or deal with them.
Identifying And Recognising Ptsd Triggers
It is not always easy or obvious to identify PTSD triggers. A person with PTSD might not be aware of what provokes their feeling of fear, avoidance and panic or anger and aggression. This is more common with sensory triggers like smells, sights, taste or touch.
To recognise the triggers of PTSD, you may require a combination of observation and therapy. A psychiatrist will help you to examine parts of the environment that provoke an emotional response.
Although some people may be able to recognise their triggers, others may not. In these cases, specialist psychiatrists, family and friends may be needed to help to identify triggers.
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Trauma And Mental Health Issues
Lingering trauma is the root cause of a number of diagnosable mental illnesses. The best known and most widespread of these illnesses is posttraumatic stress disorder, or PTSD.
Another condition, called acute stress disorder, or ASD, produces the same kinds of symptoms as PTSD. However, these symptoms occur within a shorter span of time than PTSD symptoms.
Both PTSD and ASD belong to a group of illnesses known as trauma- and stressor-related disorders. Additional conditions in the same category include:
- Disinhibited social engagement disorder
- Reactive attachment disorder
How To Deal With Triggers From Trauma
Sounds too simple to be true, but deep breathing has been proven to reduce stress and lower the levels of cortisol that floods the body during a PTSD trigger response. You can do it anytime, anywhere, and very importantly, it is subtle.
Meditation is a great way to practice mindfulness which can help you gain control over the intrusive thoughts that may occur due to a triggered PTSD response. Through meditation, which often involves elements of deep and intentional breathing, you can train yourself to focus your attention away from the trigger.
Easier said than done, but with practice, you may be able to overcome your instinctive fear response by reframing the triggering circumstance and thinking positive thoughts. It could be happy memories of a loved one, or anything else that provides a good distraction. Regular journaling can help you hone your gratitude.
When nothing seems able to wrangle your thoughts away from panic or fear that may be rising, use grounding techniques to focus on the immediate present. Take the time to address each of your senses: things you see, feel, touch, smell, and taste.
PTSD is a mental illness and medical condition that medication can help manage. While it may not cure you, prescription drugs may help manage the symptoms, making PTSD much less disruptive to your life. Talk to a mental health professional today.
How Do You Develop Triggers
When faced with danger, your body gets ready to fight, flee, or freeze. Your heart beats faster. Your senses go on high alert. Your brain stops some of its normal functions to deal with the threat. This includes your short-term memory.
With PTSD, your brain doesnât process the trauma the right way. It doesnât file the memory of the event as being in the past. The result: You feel stressed and frightened even when you know youâre safe.
The brain attaches details, like sights or smells, to that memory. These become triggers. They act like buttons that turn on your bodyâs alarm system. When one of them is pushed, your brain switches to danger mode. This may cause you to become frightened and your heart to start racing. The sights, sounds, and feelings of the trauma may come rushing back. This is called a flashback.
How To Get Help For Ptsd
A private residential program at The Banyans Health and Wellness offers an individually tailored approach to PTSD recovery. Each therapy inclusion is research-based and has been shown to positively impact the mental and emotional health of PTSD survivors.
Programs at The Banyans equip people with practical tools and strategies for moving forward. Offering psychiatry, psychology, EMDR therapy, EAGALA equine-assisted therapy, music therapy, relationship counselling and more, The Banyans Health and Wellness is Australias premium residential program for PTSD treatment.
For further support and information about a PTSD recovery treatment program at The Banyans, submit a contact form below or call our team on +61 1300 BANYAN .
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Learn As Much As You Can About Stress Acute Stress And The More Difficult Forms Of Ptsd And Chronic Stress Learn To Manage Your Primary Symptoms
Knowledge is power. When you know you are not crazy or losing your mind but that the things you are experiencing are common responses to what you have been through, then it is easier to look for the things others have found useful in recovering from their chronic stress.
Accept what you feel. Try to learn to feel what you are feeling rather than run from the uncomfortable feelings. The feelings will come and go. Learn that you dont have to run from feelings, but you do need to move away from real danger.