Triggers for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder are as individual as we are. There are a few commonalities from a high startle response to loud, sudden noises or not recognizing your surroundings even though you are in a familiar place you have known for decades. What I have learned is that anything at all can be a potential trigger.
Here are a few triggers from various sources as well as some of my own:
- Hearing a baby cry can trigger tears in me as I panic and think, someone please help that baby right now…
- Loud voices, yelling and arguing of any sort online or otherwise trigger me severely
- A childhood sexual abuse survivor cannot stand the sound of loud eating, smacking or slurping
- A survivor of an abusive marriage cannot take any criticism of any sort from any source without violently shaking
- People with one track minds who yell me “shut,” cannot or will not hear a word I say set me to stuttering and shaking
- A man who once led troops cannot step off of his front porch without a reaction that sends him back inside for weeks
What being “triggered” looks like:
- You may not “see” anything at all, the person may “appear” just fine, most of us do unless the “trigger” does not cease
- For me, I start shaking and this can grow to full body convulsive tremors if the trigger does not stop or I cannot get away from the trigger
- If badly triggered, I will start stammering, stuttering like nobody’s business despite being a public speaker and team leader for years
- I internalize most triggers which means choppy sleep, if any, a return of the relentless terrifying nightmares and extremely high anxiety
- Fleeing the person, place or thing that caused the trigger is not uncommon for me, getting away is often my own source of relief
- Profuse sweating happens with me yet I am cold and clammy and I also have difficulty breathing, feel as though I cannot get enough air
These are just a few triggers and a few examples of what being triggered can look like. There are thousands more triggers and, I am sure, just as many responses. For years after the physical assault, I would rock hours away. Anywhere. Doctor’s office, trauma survivor workshop, restaurant, wherever I was I would just start rocking often without even realizing I was doing it at all. Hard to imagine I know. Recently I have started rocking again. This makes sense because I was ill almost the entire month of July, the heat flared my asthma daily and I was ill with heat exhaustion for over two weeks. I am now fighting what I believe to be a misdiagnosed bladder infection which is wearying me severely. When I am not well physically, I “trigger” more easily. Yesterday (August 14, 2017) I was triggered. I hardly slept last night from the abdominal and back pain I’ve had for nearly three weeks now and because I was so anxious from being triggered, no amount of pain killers eased my physical state. PTSD makes us vulnerable to a host of triggers both known and unknown. What I have found is there is an acute lack of understanding from friends and loved ones who do not grasp the disorder and can even trigger us because they don’t want to learn or even try to understand. This is why you will find me writing about PTSD every so often. Educate, educate, educate is all I know to do.
If you or someone you love has PTSD please feel free to share your or their experiences in the hope that, one day, we will not have to explain ourselves any longer but may simply live our lives in peace.
(c) Janni Styles