When Trauma is Triggered

When Trauma is Triggered
Experiencing or witnessing traumatic events can often stir up past trauma memories, leading to what is known as trauma reactivation.
 
This common reaction to trauma triggers can result in flashbacks, nightmares, PTSD symptoms, and uncontrollable physical health reactions. 
These trigger memories can feel as intense as the original traumatic experience, causing emotional distress and discomfort. 
However, with the help of a mental health professional and coping strategies like Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, it's possible to understand and overcome these trauma symptoms. 
There are ways to guide you through the process of dealing with these triggers in the present moment, using effective coping skills and treatments.

Trauma & PTSD Counselors

Sarah Webster, SWC

Sarah Webster, SWC

Colorado
(719) 696-3439
Laura Hunt, LPC

Laura Hunt, LPC

Colorado
(719) 452-4374
Jennifer Wilson, LPCC, NCC

Jennifer Wilson, LPCC, NCC

Colorado
(720) 437-9089
Arias Gonzales, MS, LPC

Arias Gonzales, MS, LPC

Colorado
(719) 345-2424
Jenifer Seas, LCSW

Jenifer Seas, LCSW

Colorado Springs, Colorado
(719) 452-4374
Sierra Brown, SWC

Sierra Brown, SWC

Colorado
(719) 345-2424
Dominique Schweinhardt, MA, LPCC, LPP

Dominique Schweinhardt, MA, LPCC, LPP

Colorado Springs, Colorado
(719) 602-1342
Alex Wiley, LPC

Alex Wiley, LPC

Colorado Springs, Colorado
(719) 452-4374
Michele Stahle, LPC

Michele Stahle, LPC

Colorado
(719) 345-2424
Samantha Zavala, LPCC

Samantha Zavala, LPCC

Aurora, Colorado
(719) 345-2424

What is trauma reactivation?

Trauma reactivation can be defined as the experience of intense emotions or physical reactions to events that remind you of your trauma. 

Some common triggers may be sights, smells, thoughts, or sounds that remind you of the traumatic event. 

These triggers can cause an overwhelming emotional reaction that may include anxiety, anger, or panic.

However, there are ways to cope with this process until they no longer bother you. 

To get through this process you will need three key steps: understanding what's happening, emotional support, and taking action.

Coping With Triggered Memories

When you're triggered, it's easy to get carried away in the emotion of what you're feeling. 

It's important to take a step back and remember that this is just a memory. 

You are not actually in the event again. 

The more you try to resist or avoid these memories, the stronger they will become.

But if you allow yourself to feel everything, including all of the fear and sadness, it will eventually pass.

The first step when dealing with triggered emotions is to accept them. 

Allow yourself to experience your emotions fully without resisting them or trying to change how you feel about what happened. 

You may find that this process is long and difficult at times but also cathartic and freeing once it's complete.

We must learn how to see these memories for what they really are: past events that we cannot control and did not ask for them to happen.

We can't undo them, so we need to ask ourselves: "What do I need right now?" and "What do I need from myself?"

You can also try the following.

  • Recognize Your Triggers - Understanding what specifically triggers your traumatic memories is the first step in managing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). This could be certain places, people, smells, or even times of the year.
  • Practice Mindfulness and Grounding Techniques - Staying in the present moment can help you cope with overwhelming emotions. Techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, or focusing on physical sensations can help ground you when a trigger occurs.
  • Reach Out to Support Networks - Don't hesitate to lean on friends, family, or support groups. They can provide comfort, understanding, and practical help when you're dealing with PTSD triggers.
  • Seek Help from a Mental Health Professional - Therapists or psychologists who specialize in trauma can provide effective strategies to overcome trauma triggers. This could involve cognitive-behavioral therapy, EMDR, or other types of trauma-focused therapy.
  • Take Care of Your Physical Health - Regular exercise, a healthy diet, and adequate sleep can improve your ability to cope and help you manage symptoms of Traumatic Stress Disorder PTSD.
  • Use Coping Skills - Develop a set of coping skills that work for you. This might include journaling, art, music, yoga, or other activities that help you relax and focus.
  • Avoid Alcohol and Drugs - These substances can intensify your reactions to triggers and make it harder to apply the coping techniques you've learned.
  • Gradual Exposure - With the help of a therapist, gradually exposing yourself to your triggers can reduce their power over time. This should only be done under professional guidance.

Remember, everyone's experience with trauma and PTSD is unique, and what works for one person may not work for another. It's important to find what strategies best suit your individual needs.


What does a trigger feel like?

When someone experiences a trigger, it can feel like a variety of emotional and physical sensations.

These can include muscle tension, pain, anxiety, panic, feeling overwhelmed, or loss of control. 

You may notice you have a racing heart or your body feels tense. 

Your nervous system has likely entered the "fight or flight". mode.

Some signs you have been triggered include heightened sensitivity to noises or touch, uncontrollable anger, or sudden exhaustion. 

A person can experience different reactions to being triggered depending on the type of trauma and how soon the traumatic event took place.

Coping With Nightmares 

Another symptom of trauma can be recurring nightmares. 

Being triggered during the day can often lead to sleep disturbances. 

Nightmares are different than flashbacks. 

They occur when you're asleep and you're essentially dreaming about the traumatic event. 

Nightmares can be very frightening, but they're not life-threatening. 

And they don't last long. 

Nightmares usually only last for 10 to 20 minutes.

If you wake up in the middle of a nightmare, it's important to stay in bed and calm down. 

This will give you time to process what's happening in your head and gradually come back to reality without any interruptions or distractions that may cause you to feel even more distressed. 

You can then either go back to sleep or do something else that helps calm your mind, like journaling or listening to music before bedtime.

Conclusion

Trauma is a natural response to a terrible event, and it's common to experience a flood of memories and physical reactions when faced with triggers. Here are some tips for coping:

-Learn what triggers your trauma, and avoid them when possible.

-Talk about your trauma with a trusted friend or therapist.

-Find outlets for your emotions by talking or writing about them, listening to music, painting, drawing, or expressing yourself in other ways.

-Practice mindfulness exercises such as deep breathing and meditation.

-Seek out support from other people who have experienced trauma.

-Keep a journal of your feelings and thoughts.

-Journaling can be cathartic and help you process your feelings and identify patterns.

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February 25th, 2024

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