A trigger is something that sets off a memory or flashback which mentally transports a person back to the event of her/his original trauma. There is not one set trigger for all people suffering from a trauma; different people have different triggers.
What is trauma?
Trauma is characterized as physical or emotional damage caused by an assault.
Trauma typically results in the following feelings and symptoms:
- Feelings of shock, anger or fear
- Feel helpless because you could not prevent the assault
- Have nightmares or flashbacks about the assault
- Trouble sleeping and concentration
- Revengeful thoughts
- Think that you did something to cause the attack
- Feel embarrassed about telling your family and friends
- Feel any or all of the above, whether you were physically injured or not
Overtime, if the trauma persists, specifically for over a month, then the victim may be diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress (PTSD).
What are triggers?
Triggers are events or situations that produce very uncomfortable emotional or psychological symptoms like anxiety, panic and hopelessness. Triggers can take many forms. They may be a physical location or the anniversary of the traumatic event. A person could also be triggered by internal processes such as stress.
Sometimes triggers can be predictable. For example, a veteran may have flashbacks while watching a violent movie. In other cases, triggers are less obvious. For instance, a person who smelled incense during a sexual assault may have a panic attack when they smell the same incense in a store. Not everyone is affected by the same trigger.
What are Flashbacks?
A flashback is like a vivid memory; it will feel as though you are actually being drawn back into a traumatic experience, almost as if it is reoccurring altogether. A flashback tends to occur after a particular trigger, they usually do not just appear out of nowhere. A flashback can be so overwhelmingly realistic that many who suffer from them believe they are actually reliving or re-experiencing their trauma. It feels so realistic because it actually provokes a similar level of stress in the body as the actual trauma, causing the same hormonal response as at the time of the trauma.
If you realize that you are in the middle of a flashback, remember the following tips:
- Tell yourself you are having a flashback and that the actually event has already passed.
- Take deep, slow breathes and calm yourself down. When we panic, our body begins to take short, shallow breaths. The lack of oxygen ends up making you feel even more panicked. Deep breathing is important because it increases the oxygen in your system and helps you move out of anxious state faster.
- Focusing in on your senses can help pull you out of a flashback.
To prevent further flashbacks, it is important to identify what your triggers are so that you know when flashback is coming and can therefore prevent it.
Early Intervention and Treatment is Important
Intervene as soon as possible on behalf of someone suffering from triggers and flashbacks. Uncharacteristic behavior becomes increasingly destructive. Over time, buried and suppressed memories become more powerful.
Accelerated Resolution Therapy (ART) is an innovative, evidence-based therapy for PTSD, anxiety, depression, stress and similar mental health issues. Initially, the therapy was primarily used to help veterans suffering from PTSD. One of the major advantages is the speed at which ART is able to bring relief. On average one to five sessions are needed, not months or years of expensive psychiatric treatment.
Accelerated Resolution Therapy works by reprogramming the traumatic memories that are preventing the inflicted individual from enjoying the full life they deserve. The techniques work equally well on bullying victims, combat vets and others.
Don’t let flashbacks and triggers prevent you from living your life. Contact ART to learn more or find a therapist near you.