We experience trauma triggers after going through an event that changes us and leaves an imprint on our minds. These triggers take us back to that moment in time and stimulate negative feelings.
Trauma causes negative emotions and damage to our lives. And yes, we can heal from all sorts of past experiences, with the proper support and practices.
But often there’s an imprint that dwindles in the back of our minds, buried within our memories. This imprint is a trauma trigger, which is activated by a cue or reminder of the devasting things that happened to us.
Trauma trigger is a psychological stimulus causing an instant recall of a past traumatic experience.
Signs of Trauma Triggers
Do you experience trauma triggers? Well, there are ways to discover if you indeed experience them throughout your daily life.
Maybe you haven’t experienced any triggers, or maybe you just never understood what it was. Either way, a few indicators can reveal the truth.
1. Anxious feelings
But with trauma triggers, anxious feelings can come out of nowhere. If you’re not normally an anxious person and you suddenly start feeling nervous and irritable, this could be a sign of a trauma trigger.
Something is creating an instantly uncomfortable environment.
2. Muscle tension or pain
If you do not normally experience pain or muscle tension, then a sudden experience with this issue can be confusing. Negative feelings can sometimes manifest in physical form when a trigger is nearby. It can be a smell, a sound, or a memory that you’ve forgotten about.
The thing is your subconscious remembers things from your past and your physical body can pick up on those little cues before you even think about them. Pay attention to how you physically feel.
From out of nowhere, you’ve started thinking about an instance of domestic violence from your past. So, where did that memory come from, and why did it surface?
Well, just with physical indicators and anxious feelings, memories can resurface randomly when you encounter a trigger. Maybe it’s an old letter from your ex-partner, or maybe a picture.
Regardless, you’ve probably run across something from your past that triggered a memory. These negative thoughts can sneak in and invade your senses before you know what hit you.
Are you suddenly feeling detached from reality? Do you feel separated from your identity or your surroundings? I know, maybe this isn’t easy for everyone to understand, especially if you’ve never encountered the sensation.
But dissociation can occur when a trauma trigger rears its ugly head. We learn to distance ourselves from our lives when a trigger occurs.
If you feel like you’re just not in a normal place – foggy mind, forgetfulness, numbness – then you could be experiencing a trauma trigger, and you’ve checked out for a moment to protect yourself.
5. Sudden anger
Irritability and anger do occur when triggers happen.
I can attest from personal experience that the smell of whiskey triggers horrible memories for me. When I was in an abusive relationship, the fights were often after my ex-partner indulged in drinking whiskey. Now, when I catch a whiff of this smell, I get angry and irritable.
This trauma trigger keeps me pacing around the house until I find the source of the smell. Most of the time, it’s a rotten piece of fruit that smells oddly enough like alcohol.
If you’re not prone to depression, a sudden lack of motivation, severe sadness and despondency, and fatigue can be a cause for concern. Signs of depression stemming from a negative cue can happen to anyone.
Triggers not only create an anxious environment, but they can also create a dark one. When these negative thoughts invade, dark feelings from the past can resurface and hang over you like a black cloud. Watch for these sudden changes in your mood.
One of the most horrible signs of a trigger is a flashback. These are different from memories, as you actually feel as if you’re back in time experiencing the trauma all over again.
Flashbacks can be severe or minor, depending on the strength of the trigger, and depending on how you’re already feeling.
Pay attention to the strength of the images in your head. Are they memories? Or is your mind attempting to transport you back to that moment in time? One is much worse than the other.
How can we deal with trauma triggers?
It’s hard enough to heal from a traumatic event but dealing with the triggers from that event feels like going through the torment again. So, to deal with triggers, you must formulate a plan of action before they happen. Here are some steps.
1. Learn what triggers you
This may take some time, but learn all the little cues and stimuli that cause disruptions in your life. Here are a few examples of trauma triggers.
- Skin sensations
One or more of these triggers can be present, and you just haven’t identified them yet. Pay close attention to what upsets you and keep this information in a journal. Over time, you will see patterns and be able to pinpoint your trauma trigger.
2. During the trigger response
Sometimes triggers are subtle, and you only notice them after your response. And if you don’t have a healthy response to the trigger, it can last longer and affect you in many negative ways, most notably, halting your healing process.
If you’re already upset, use these steps to calm yourself.
- Attempt to refocus on the present
- Remind yourself that your response is common, and you will make it through
- Practice breathing exercises. Take long slow breaths to regulate your heart rate.
3. Help with flashbacks
If you’re having flashbacks, there’s a system that helps. Follow these steps to stop the negative images and stimuli, bringing you back to a safe and comfortable mindset. In fact, say these things out loud for stability.
- “I know that I am not in the trauma right now.”
- (Check the time and date) “It is 10 a.m. on July 5, 2022”, and “It is not November 8, 1998”
- “I feel that my body is shaking, sweating, cold”
- “At this moment, I am afraid, sad, anxious”
- “I am only having a memory of a bad person, place, event”
- (Notice 5 things around you) “I see a chair, table, cat, stereo, bookshelf”
- “I am at home” and “I am not in my parent’s house”
These steps will be different in ways for everyone, but the basic idea is clear. You must understand as quickly as possible that you are in the present time and not experiencing the abuse right now.
Once you’re grounded, you’re able to take back control and stop the flashbacks. If nightmares are a problem, and they sometimes are, you can try these same steps when you wake up.
Just keep moving forward
Trauma triggers can be just as painful as the trauma itself. This is because it keeps happening over and over after the event has ended.
Never hesitate to ask for help or seek a professional for advice. I hope these tidbits helped you identify any triggers you’re experiencing. And I send positive vibes for your continual healing.
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