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.

 

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.