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.

 

What is PBSP and How Can It Help with PTSD?

There are many different ways to approach healing PTSD, but one of the commonalities about many of these different approaches is that they focus on the not just the mind, but also the body. The Pesso Boyden System Psychomotor (PBSP) approach is yet another one of them that does this. PBSP was created by Albert Pesso and Diane Boyden, two people who were professional dancers. They noticed that when they asked their dancers to try to express their emotions through physical movements, the dancers felt much better and relieved afterward.

 

Maybe we just have to let all of our emotions out of our system after all. The mind and body are more closely related than most of us realize, and there are many different ways to get your emotions out. Some of us feel better after simply talking or writing them out. Others might get relief from going for a run, punching a bag, doing yoga, or dancing around a room.

 

Sometimes though, none of that is good enough, and you might actually need to act out the scenario that is bothering you. The theory behind this approach is that the reason your memories keep haunting you is that you were never able to see the result or end. So what PBSP does is gives you an outlet where you can reenact all the potential scenarios of that past memory in a group acting setting. This can hopefully allow you to make peace with your traumatic experience and be able to move on from it.

 

Dancing and acting might not be able to solve all of your problems, but it can be a good mood booster and a fun place to start.

Sensorimotor Psychotherapy – Another Option for PTSD Healing

In one of the previous blogs, we talked about Somatic Experiencing (SE), where the focus is on what the physical body goes through after trauma. Sensorimotor Psychotherapy is very similar to that as well. Sensorimotor functioning has to do with your senses and motor skills in your surrounding environment. When you have PTSD, your mind and body can react differently to certain sights, smells, sounds, tastes, and physical sensations. Sometimes this means that your body kicks into fight or flight mode, and other times you simply shut down and begin dissociating from everything and everyone around you. This can then really begin to mess with your head, making your thoughts turn foggy and erratic. Your emotions can become a complete mess too, and before you know it, you’re spiraling down into a horrendous panic episode.

 

The idea behind Sensorimotor Psychotherapy is to bring your physical body’s responses in line with your mental state so that instead of feeding off of each other and bringing on more panic, they mitigate each other and bring you to a place of ease, where you can appropriately deal with what’s in front of you and eventually and completely overcome your trauma once and for all.

 

Our thoughts hold a lot of power over us. If you think you can’t do something, then you won’t. If you don’t feel like you’re good enough, then you aren’t. It’s the same thing when it comes to your physical body. If you think you’re afraid, then your body is going to act like it is afraid. If you think you are helpless, then your body will act in this way too. Sensorimotor Psychotherapy will help you to recognize your negative and obtrusive thoughts so that you can stop allowing them to rule your life.

 

Positive thinking can go a long way in healing PTSD, and Sensorimotor Psychotherapy can help you to recognize your negative thoughts and turn them into positive ones. This is a great method for processing traumatic memories so you can learn to overcome them. This form of therapy was developed by Dr. Pat Ogden in the 1970s. She says that this approach uses a combination of strategies to help you heal, including neuroscience, the attachment theory, somatic and cognitive approaches, and what is known as the Hakomi Method.

 

The Hakomi Method is a form of therapy that focuses on mindfulness, loving-kindness, and empathy. These are things that everyone could benefit from, but especially those that are suffering from PTSD.

 

If you’d like to know more about the Sensorimotor Psychotherapy approach, Dr. Pat Ogden published a book on it that’s titled Sensorimotor Psychotherapy: Interventions for Trauma and Attachment. In it, it goes into detail about how and why it works. If you are unsure as to where to turn to next for getting your PTSD under control, you should check this out. Sensorimotor Psychotherapy just might be the best option for you.

Setting Boundaries with PTSD

When it comes to overcoming PTSD, setting boundaries is a crucial part of your recovery. There are many different kinds of boundaries that you might need to set, and these are going to depend on your own personal needs and preferences. The most important thing to remember when setting any sort of boundaries is that you need to be practicing open and honest communication. If you know that certain places and things are going to trigger you, everyone else around you might not. Communicating these things to them can go a long way in helping you, and helping them to help you.

 

If you’re in therapy, you might find yourself feeling uncomfortable with the things that your therapist wants you to talk about. Or, if you’re doing exposure therapy, your therapist might be moving you along too quickly.  If either of these is the case, it’s perfectly okay to tell them that you’re not ready to go there yet. Communicating this to them can help them to know where you are in your progress, and help you to go at a pace that works for you. After all, no one knows yourself better than you do, and that includes your therapist.

 

Another boundary to remember when taking therapy is that your relationship with your therapist should remain friendly, yet professional. Thinking that you have feelings for someone who you share private details of your life with can be an easy thing to do, and can even be a normal outcome. But acting on these feelings is not, and keeping things purely professional is a strict boundary that you should always keep with your therapist.

 

You should also consider setting boundaries with your family and friends. Again, communication is really important here. The people that you have in your life might not know your trigger points, and they can only have an idea if you tell them. Sometimes this is difficult to do because you don’t want to have to admit weaknesses to them, or you don’t want to seem like a burden. Your triggers are not weaknesses, and telling your loved ones can actually help them to help you.

 

It also helps if they know more about PTSD. Sometimes, friends and family can make things worse without meaning to. If they don’t realize the seriousness of what you’re asking them, they might think that overstepping your boundaries is a harmless game. You can help to educate them by giving them informational pamphlets or even inviting them to one of your therapy sessions.

 

If someone you know violates the boundaries that you set, it’s also important to enforce them. Set consequences and let them know what those consequences are. Stop spending time with those that don’t respect your boundaries or that make you feel less than you really are. Instead, hang out with those that support you and help lift you up. This will help you develop into a stronger person and lead you on your way to healing from your PTSD.

Somatic Experiencing – an Alternate Path to Healing PTSD

There are many ways to cope with PTSD, and it’s all a matter of finding what works best for you. One alternate way of dealing with PTSD is through a form of therapy called Somatic Experiencing, or SE.

 

Somatic Experiencing focuses on your physical body – how it feels, moves, and responds to certain, thoughts, images, and environments. So it’s less about what’s in your head, and more about what’s happening to you on the outside. Recognizing your outer bodily responses is the beginning of learning how to harness and control them, which can lead you on your way to overcoming PTSD, instead of letting it overcome you.

 

This alternative form of PTSD healing therapy was developed by psychologist Peter A. Levine, who specializes in trauma therapy. If you think you would like to know more about Somatic Experiencing and want to find out if this path is the right one for you, you should check out the book, Waking the Tiger, which was actually written by Peter A. Levine himself.

 

In it, Levine goes on to tell the story of Nancy, a graduate student who couldn’t figure out why she kept having panic attacks. By using the vision of a tiger, Levine was able to help Nancy begin to recover from her mental illness. This book is an inspiring read, and might even be able to help you on your path to recovery too. The key to overcoming PTSD is to find the best healing approach that works for you.

Unspoken Symptoms Of PTSD: Extreme Reactions to Memories

PTSD is usually caused by a very traumatic event in a person’s life, but sometimes it seems as though dealing with the PTSD afterward is worse than the actual event itself. One of the common side effects of PTSD is flashbacks. This is where the sufferer begins to remember the event vividly as if completely reliving the situation all over again. Even for those that don’t have PTSD, they know that those that do can suffer from flashbacks.

 

But sometimes, it’s not just flashbacks that they have to deal with. Those with PTSD can have extreme reactions to anything that reminds them of the terrible event, and these reactions include more than just the common flashbacks.

 

Extreme reactions can include but are not limited to fast heart rate, hyperventilating, nausea, tension, stress, vomiting, and sweating. That’s a lot for a person to have to deal with on a regular basis, and if not dealt with properly, these extreme reactions can also turn into intense flashbacks.

 

The best thing to do is to try to avoid things that you know are trigger points for you. You should also seek out therapy to learn healthy coping mechanisms and learn to eventually overcome your fears.

 

If you know someone with PTSD, try to learn their trigger points and make an effort to not bring them up around that person. If you find yourself in a situation where they begin showing extreme reactions, just stay calm and try to give them your full support.

Unspoken Symptoms of PTSD: Migraines

There are a lot of symptoms that come along with having PTSD. Some are fairly common and well talked about, such as flashbacks and anxiety. But there are some symptoms that you may not even realize are part of your PTSD. If you suffer from headaches regularly, and if those headaches seem to get so bad that you can no longer see straight and you feel the need to vomit, PTSD might be the culprit for it.

 

This is especially true for men. Although women are actually three times more likely to have either migraines or PTSD than men, men are more likely to have both at the same time. Basically, the chances of migraines being caused by PTSD are greater in men than in women.

 

PTSD is serious stuff, and it not only effects just what happens inside your head. It can be physically painful to relive your trauma over and over again. Your thoughts begin to take over and you can feel the panic rising. Your muscles tense up, your blood pressure rises, and your body releases all kinds of chemicals associated with fight or flight mode. Any one of these things can cause a headache on their own, but when you combine them all together, you get the perfect recipe for a serious migraine.

 

If you’re having headaches due to your PTSD, learn what your triggers are so you can avoid them in the future. Practice good self-care, and even consider taking some medication to help alleviate a headache when you feel one coming on.