WHAT CAN TRIGGER POST-TRAUMATIC STRESS DISORDER?

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is the outcome of experiencing or witnessing a trauma. We have previously written a blog post about the disorder which you can read HERE and today we’ll be discussing what can trigger symptoms of PTSD.

Not everyone who experiences a trauma will develop Post-traumatic stress disorder, however, it can affect people of all ages. Whilst this is the case, there are some factors that may make someone more at risk of having PTSD following a traumatic event. These could be:

  • Experiencing an intense or long-lasting trauma
  • Experiencing trauma when young, such as childhood abuse
  • Having a career that increases the risk of exposure to traumatic events (e.g. military, emergency services)
  • Having other mental health issues
  • Substance misuse
  • A lack of support system, family or friends
  • Close relatives with mental health issues

So what events can result in PTSD? The most common traumatic events that have lead to the disorder are:

  • Combat exposure
  • Physical abuse as a child
  • Sexual violence
  • Physical assault
  • Threatened with a weapon
  • An accident

Other events include: fire, natural disaster, robbery, torture, kidnapping, serious medical diagnosis, terrorism, plane crash to name a few.

Symptoms can come and go with post-traumatic stress disorder, and can be brought on by triggers. For example, if someone has military combat-related PTSD, they may be fine until they hear a car backfire loudly whilst walking down the street. Triggers can bring back really strong memories that feel as though you’re experiencing the trauma all over again. Triggers can affect any of your senses – they can include sights, smells, sounds, tastes, textures or thoughts that remind you of the event. If someone was threatened with a weapon on a stormy day, the sight of dark rain clouds could trigger symptoms of PTSD. Understanding your own personal triggers can help you manage symptoms better.

There are many things that are PTSD triggers. Here are some of the most common ones:

  • People. For example, if your abuser wore glasses, people wearing glasses may trigger bad memories.
  • Thoughts or emotions. How you felt during the trauma can cause symptoms
  • Objects
  • Scents
  • Locations
  • TV shows, the news, films that show a similar trauma
  • Feelings/sensations such as pain
  • Noises
  • Tastes
  • Situations. For example, getting stuck in a lift could bring back memories of being trapped after a car accident
  • Anniversary of the trauma
  • Reading or hearing particular words

But why do we develop triggers?

When your body senses danger it braces itself to either fight, flee or freeze. Your heartbeat increases, your senses go on high alert and your brain stops some of its normal functions to deal with the threat, including short-term memory. Because of this. your brain doesn’t process the trauma correctly so it doesn’t file the memory of the event as being in the past. This means that you can wind up feeling scared and stressed even when you know that you’re safe. Your brain relates things like tastes and sounds to the memory that then become triggers. When you experience a trigger your brain then thinks your in danger, and your body responds.

Sometimes people aren’t aware that something is a trigger. It can seem like the symptoms come on suddenly, but most of the time they are a result of a trigger that hasn’t yet been identified. If you are struggling with PTSD, get in touch with Dalton Wise and we can work with you to identify your triggers and manage your symptoms effectively.

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