When Trauma is Triggered

When Trauma is Triggered

When we experience or witness a traumatic event, it often triggers our old memories and feelings. 

We may find ourselves having flashbacks, nightmares, and very real physical reactions to events that we can't control. 

This is called trauma reactivation.

This is a common reaction to trauma. 

And it makes sense that when these memories come back, they feel just as intense as the first time you experienced them. 

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

This blog will discuss what can trigger trauma and how to cope.

Available Trauma & PTSD Counselors in Colorado Springs

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?"

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.


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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