In relation to trauma, a trigger is something that calls to mind a previous traumatic situation and may provoke a flashback of the event. Therapists suggest that triggers can vary person to person, and are dependent on an individual’s personal, and often private, experiences. It may be hard to predict what may be a trigger for you or a loved one, however, the more attention you pay to identifying triggers, the easier it may become to predict, control, or manage their effects.
Types of triggersTriggers can be divided into different categories, including those based on our senses. Common categories of triggers may include:
Managing TriggersThere are various approaches to managing triggers. Although everyone’s triggers may be different, there are common tips that can be used to deal with them in a healthy manner. These include, but are not limited to:
By Evey Krammer-Carlson
I make a conscious effort to be careful about what I read and listen to on the news. It’s a tricky line to walk sometimes because I’m inherently curious and interested in what is happening in current events around the world. I don’t want to live in a bubble. I want to know what’s happening, I want to be able to critically think about things so I can form my own opinions and have thoughtful conversations.
When my symptoms were at their worst, and I was going through the throes of processing my memories, my therapist had me follow the “puppy and kitten rule,” meaning I could watch anything as long as it included cute puppies and kittens. That “rule” helped me minimize being triggered at a time when most of my days were spent experiencing flashbacks, anxiety, panic, and fear.
I stayed away from intense news and was mindful of what I watched on tv and what movies I saw. Most of the time, I watched lots of comedy. Admittedly, there were times when I broke the rule. I sometimes sought out programs with violence that in some way mirrored my own abuse. Or I would pay attention to sensationalized cases in the media that were hard to avoid. Inevitably I would get triggered.
As I began to manage my symptoms and felt some sense of safety the puppy/kitten rule was lifted. Because I had been so careful about what I ingested from media outlets for so long, I developed an avoidance for watching or seeking out certain information because I knew it may be triggering.
Recently, there was a news story that I had done my best to avoid. When it first came out, people were outraged, and then the news cycle changed. I understand why that happens. There is so much out there every day, and each event is shocking and sad, and sometimes incomprehensible. But because my trauma is sort-of similar to the aforementioned news story, I was on high alert when I scrolled past it. I had a definite curiosity about the details but hadn’t read anything besides the headlines.
Until the other day!
The other day the headline changed and I knew that the very thing I feared when I first heard the story did, in fact, come true. I knew this person would never be convicted. I felt sick that even with awareness, this kind of trafficking still goes on, and in my mind, will probably continue to exist.
Then I got triggered.
I’m not used to those kinds of triggers any longer. There is plenty for me to navigate in my daily life, and anniversary times of the year, and I thought I was far enough along in my healing journey that I would be okay. But PTSD doesn’t operate that way. It doesn’t care that I was just reading an article, and it doesn’t care that this person had absolutely nothing to do with me. I had never heard of him. PTSD simply understands that my sense of safety and trust is altered because of the trauma I experienced, and my brain and body will go into the memory and protection mode automatically.
After reading the article, I could tell that something was awry in my body/mind/spirit. I could tell things were stirred up in a way that I could spiral down the cycle of panic, fear, and shame. I closed the computer, went to yoga, had lunch with a friend, and remembered that today is a day when I’m fighting the tiger. Any shame over being triggered dissipated as I repeated my metaphorical mantra of support to myself.
Seeing things written, or in movies, tv, or media can bring a sort of validation. A sense of see? I’m not making this up! When you are a trauma survivor you look for validation. My trauma seems so “out of the ordinary” that it’s extremely rare that I felt validation.
But, my job on my healing journey is knowing that my truth is validation enough.
I suspect there will be other times when I get triggered by the news. The intensity of my response will probably vary depending on what the triggers are, the time of year, and the present stressors in my life. I know what to do when the skeleton hands of the past pull at me, and I’m confident that I’ll remember that I will fight the tiger and win.
Dissociation is an experience where your attention and emotions are disconnected from the present moment.It’s like you’re here, but your mind and emotions are somewhere else.
This is a general term and experience.
I talked in a previous video about depersonalization and derealization.
Those are specific kinds of dissociative experiences. With depersonalization you feel detached or disconnected from yourself so you may feel like you’re observing yourself. With derealization, you feel disconnected from your environment. You may feel like the room you’re in isn’t real or that you’re in a different place than you really are.
An example of this is experiencing a car accident where you smelled the burning rubber of your tires. Then whenever you are riding in a car you think you smell the rubber again. That is an example of a dissociative experience you can have after the trauma experience. But sometimes you can dissociate during a traumatic event. This can be your mind’s way of protecting you from a situation where there is no escape. This is pretty common during physical or sexual trauma when you can’t get away.
In order to endure the assault, you brain turns down your response to pain and numbs your emotional response. In your mind you may go to another place such that it feels like it’s really not happening to you. During the traumatic experience, that kind of reaction helps you survive it. But then sometimes dissociation becomes a built in defense mechanism that you employ in other situations that are unrelated to trauma. For example, you can be triggered to feel disconnected or numb in response to something that reminded you of the trauma, even if you weren’t consciously aware of the trigger. You can just feel empty all the time and not know why. Smells and sounds can remind you of the trauma in a way that your body responds with anxiety and fear, but you don’t always put it together why you’re feeling anxious. It’s like the fragmented memories can come flooding back in response to sights, sounds and touch. Anxiety is another trigger that can send you into a dissociative state. So let’s say you are under a lot of stress at work. You can have trouble relating to people at work because with the added stress, you start zoning out at work. Or you start withdrawing from people because you feel like you’re a stranger and your coworkers make you feel uncomfortable. What can you do about this?
The best treatments are trauma-focused cognitive behavior therapy, prolonged exposure, and eye movement desensitization and reprocessing. One self-help approach is to use grounding techniques. Grounding techniques bring your awareness back to the present moment where you ARE safe. It’s like getting your bearing and refocusing. You can use sensory grounding or cognitive grounding. Sensory grounding uses the five senses to bring you back to the present moment and cognitive grounding uses your thoughts to remind yourself that you ARE in a safe place. Sensory grounding exercises: The 5-4-3-2-1 sensory exercise. Use a grounding smell that can bring your attention back to the present. Carry a sensory grounding object in your pocket. Splash cold water on your face and neck. Cognitive grounding exercises: Show yourself that you’re safe. Orient yourself to time and place. Repeat an inspiring quote or saying that’s comforting to you. Say coping statements like I can handle this, my situation is so much better now, these feelings with pass, etc.
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"Today we are going to talk about the 5 signs of dissociation because it’s more common than most people think. Research shows us that over 50% of people will have at least one dissociative episode in their lifetime, so we should all be a little more informed about what it is and what it isn’t.
And all the more reason to share this video!
1. Memory loss
2. Feeling like you are watching yourself do something & you don’t have any control over it
3. Feeling lightheaded
4. Not feeling pain
5. Feeling like we don’t know who we are
why it happens and what we can do about it "
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If you or someone you know is dealing with a challenging situation and could benefit from additional support, consider talking to one of the 2,000 licensed online counselors at BetterHelp. Emotional abuse is a severe form of psychological trauma. It’s otherwise known as mental or psychological abuse; however these terms refer to the same concept. Unlike physical abuse, emotional abuse doesn’t leave visible scars. That doesn’t mean that it isn’t damaging. When a perpetrator abuses a victim emotionally, they use several forms of manipulation to control the person. Abusers break down their victim’s self-esteem to the point where they feel worthless. When a victim believes that they don’t deserve love, they are at the whim of their abuser. The perpetrator may engage in name calling, shaming, and telling the abused person that they’re unlovable. Threats are a large part of the emotional or mental abuse. The abuser tells their victim that they won’t be able to do better or find love. The victim often hides the mental or emotional abuse from friends and family because they are ashamed. However, there are some signs to indicate emotional abuse is happening. If you think someone you love is a victim of abuse, don’t ignore that intuition. Check in with them and see if they need help. You could save a life. IMPORTANT: The information in this video is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. All content, including text, graphics, images, and information contained in this video is for general information purposes only and does not replace a consultation with your doctor.