Overcoming Avoidance

In a previous blog, we talked about avoidance as a symptom of PTSD. It’s an easy go-to for coping with the trauma that you had to face. While there are times where using avoidance maneuvers can actually be a good thing, it’s no longer a good thing when you do it all the time.

 

Avoidance has its time and place but it’s important to know when and where you should use it in your daily life. Sometimes, you need to think about other things and distract yourself when you’re out in public, hanging out with friends and family, or doing work. This way, you can be in the moment without your trauma getting in the way. But the thoughts and emotions that arise throughout the day will still eventually need to be dealt with.

 

When a time comes where you can actually parse out those things, you might find yourself no longer wanting to. After all, if you could shove all those annoying thoughts and feelings aside before, why not do the same now? But continuing to avoid what’s inside of you will lead to it all building up and coming out later in much more unhealthy ways.

 

Sometimes you just need to let everything out, whether that’s talking and venting to a friend, family member, or your therapist. Those boxes in your mind that you closed up earlier in the day or week are going to have to be gone through at some point. You need an outlet so that you can use avoidance in a healthy way and still be able to overcome your trauma.

What are PTSD Triggers?

In these blogs, we’ve mentioned PTSD triggers quite a bit – how to avoid them, how to overcome them, and even how common they are. We talk about them all the time, but what exactly are PTSD triggers?

 

Triggers can be anything that sets off your PTSD, sometimes even making you feel like you’re reliving your trauma all over again. They can arise from specific sights and sounds, as well as from smells and tastes. Even certain thoughts can become triggers for you. Many people with PTSD feel the need to avoid certain places and environments that remind them of the incident.

 

For example, if someone witnessed a school shooting, that person might have a hard time entering or even talking or thinking about a school building. Some triggers can be less obvious though. For example, if you happened to be eating a peanut butter sandwich when you first heard the gunshots, you might be triggered any time you take a bite out of or even smell one. An important thing to remember though is that regardless of whatever your triggers are, they are completely normal to have when you are suffering from PTSD.

 

So why do we end up having triggers later on anyway? As most of us know, PTSD usually develops some time after the traumatic event. It does this because, in the moment of the event, our minds and bodies go into fight or flight mode, unable to actually process what is happening at the moment and only focusing on pure survival. Unfortunately, the trauma still has to be processed, and this is why triggers and flashbacks begin to set in much later.

 

In some cases, you might not even know that it is triggers that are causing you to go into a panic episode. Sometimes it seems as though you feel fear and anxiety for no reason at all. It can be a challenge to figure out what all of your triggers are, especially when you don’t want to have to admit the facts to yourself and face them. But once you learn what they are, you can start taking steps toward healing. It might help to know what things you need to avoid in order to stop having panic attacks and flashback. Then, with the help of your therapist and support from your friends and family, you can slowly learn how to overcome your triggers once and for all.

 

The best way to learn what your triggers are is to simply be observant. Take notice of when you begin to feel anxious and afraid. Where are you? Who are you with? What are you thinking about? These are the kinds of questions you should ask yourself. Once you do, reflect on the answers. Do any of them resemble something from your traumatic event in any way? If so, then you’ve probably found one of your triggers. If you’re still having a hard time trying to figure it all out on your own, your therapist should be there to help you determine your triggers, as well as help you overcome them.