PTSD stands for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. This is a a term which describes a disorder which is experienced after a traumatic event. Symptoms might include feeling hyper-aroused, stressed or on edge. A full description of PTSD symptoms can be found here. PTSD triggers are everyday situations which cause a person to re-experience the traumatic event as if it was reoccurring in the present or related symptoms. These symptoms might include strong feelings, memories or emotions.
How do we develop PTSD Triggers?
Trauma memories are encoded sensorially, not linguistically. This means that they are encoded through the senses. What does this mean? When we experience a trauma our brain attaches sensory experiences to the trauma memory. This means that when we experience a similar sensory stimulus again it can trigger PTSD symptoms. When we experience a similar sensory stimulus to one we experienced at the time of the trauma our brain tells our body that we are in danger. It is telling the body to mobilise the resources needed to either fight or flee the danger. PTSD triggers can include anything we experience through the senses of sight, smell, touch or taste. They might also include anything that reminds you of the trauma.
Examples of PTSD Triggers
PTSD triggers remind a person of the traumatic incident or incidents which they experienced. Examples therefore differ from person to person. Examples of PTSD triggers might include:
Smell: A specific smell can trigger trauma symptoms. For example if you experienced abuse by someone wearing a particular type of aftershave when you smell this type of aftershave again it could trigger traumatic symptoms.
Sounds: Hearing a sound which is similar to one associated with trauma can be triggering. An example might be a car backfiring. If you experienced trauma from combat a car backfiring might sound similar to a gun or military weapon. Being spoken to in a particular way with a particular tone can bring back trauma symptoms.
Situation: If you experienced repetitive trauma at a particular time of the day for example when the sun was going down this time of day can trigger trauma symptoms. If you experienced trauma in a busy place with lots of people entering a similar environment can trigger PTSD symptoms.
Taste: Eating or drinking something that you consumed at the time of a traumatic event can remind you of a traumatic event.
Words: Specific words or combinations of words can cue trauma type symptoms.
Media: We live in a media saturated world where we have access to hundreds of different types of media. Watching a news article where someone experiences a similar trauma to our own can trigger symptoms.
In most cases trauma symptoms dissipate a few weeks after experiencing a trauma. If symptoms persist after one month it is advisable to get some professional help with the trauma from a trauma trained professional. Trauma treatments might include EMDR therapy or Trauma Therapy.