Coping With Ptsd Triggers
Although avoiding triggers may seem like a logical way to avoid reliving trauma, its unlikely to help with symptoms of PTSD in the long term. Quite the contrary, exposure to triggers is the most common and effective treatment for PTSD. This can help to remove a trigger from the traumatic context and place it in the present, where it doesnt hold any value or association.
People can also cope with PTSD triggers through peer support groups, mindfulness and relaxation strategies or the assistance of an emotional support animal. In many cases, a combination of personal coping strategies and exposure therapy supported by a psychiatrist can be beneficial.
Some of the treatment options for managing PTSD triggers include:
Rauch, Sheila A. Eftekhari, Afsoon Ruzek, Joseph I.. Review of exposure therapy: a gold standard for PTSD treatment. J Rehabil Res Dev, 2012. Accessed May 29, 2019.
U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs. Treatment of PTSD. 2010. Accessed May 29, 2019.
How Do Children And Teens React To Trauma
Children and teens can have extreme reactions to trauma, but their symptoms may not be the same as those seen in adults. In young children under the age of 6, symptoms can include:
- Wetting the bed after having learned to use the toilet
- Forgetting how or being unable to talk
- Acting out the scary event during playtime
- Being unusually clingy with a parent or other adult
Older children and teens usually show symptoms more like those seen in adults. They also may develop disruptive, disrespectful, or destructive behaviors. Older children and teens may feel guilty for not preventing injury or deaths. They also may have thoughts of revenge.
For more information, see the National Institute of Mental Health brochure, Helping Children and Adolescents Cope With Disasters and Other Traumatic Events.
Ptsd Treatment And Therapy
Treatment for PTSD can relieve symptoms by helping you deal with the trauma youve experienced. A doctor or therapist will encourage you to recall and process the emotions you felt during the original event in order to reduce the powerful hold the memory has on your life.
During treatment, youll also explore your thoughts and feelings about the trauma, work through feelings of guilt and mistrust, learn how to cope with intrusive memories, and address the problems PTSD has caused in your life and relationships.
The types of treatment available for PTSD include:
Trauma-focused cognitive-behavioral therapy involves gradually exposing yourself to feelings and situations that remind you of the trauma, and replacing distorted and irrational thoughts about the experience with a more balanced picture.
Family therapy can help your loved ones understand what youre going through and help you work through relationship problems together as a family.
Medication is sometimes prescribed to people with PTSD to relieve secondary symptoms of depression or anxiety, although they do not treat the causes of PTSD.
EMDR incorporates elements of cognitive-behavioral therapy with eye movements or other forms of rhythmic, left-right stimulation, such as hand taps or sounds. These techniques work by unfreezing the brains information processing system, which is interrupted in times of extreme stress.
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Communication Pitfalls To Avoid
- Give easy answers or blithely tell your loved one everything is going to be okay.
- Stop your loved one from talking about their feelings or fears.
- Offer unsolicited advice or tell your loved one what they should do.
- Blame all of your relationship or family problems on your loved ones PTSD.
- Invalidate, minimize, or deny your loved ones traumatic experience
- Give ultimatums or make threats or demands.
- Make your loved one feel weak because they arent coping as well as others.
- Tell your loved one they were lucky it wasnt worse.
- Take over with your own personal experiences or feelings.
What Are The Symptoms Of Ptsd In A Child
Children and teens with PTSD feel a lot of emotional and physical distress when exposed to situations that remind them of the traumatic event. Some may relive the trauma over and over again. They may have nightmares and disturbing memories during the day. They may also:
Have problems sleeping
Feel depressed or grouchy
Feel nervous, jittery, or alert and watchful
Lose interest in things they used to enjoy. They may seem detached or numb and are not responsive.
Have trouble feeling affectionate
Be more aggressive than before, even violent
Stay away from certain places or situations that bring back memories
Have flashbacks. These can be images, sounds, smells, or feelings. The child may believe the event is happening again.
Lose touch with reality
Reenact an event for seconds or hours or, in rare cases, days
Have problems in school
Worry about dying at a young age
Act younger than their age, such as thumb-sucking or bedwetting
Have physical symptoms, such as headaches or stomachaches
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Dealing With Ptsd Triggers
Once you understand your PTSD triggers, the next step is to determine how you deal with PTSD. Managing PTSD doesnt have to be complicated. One of the first steps of coping with this condition is to talk to a mental health expert, such as the ones at Red Oak Recovery. We can teach a variety of techniques to deal with PTSD, such as:
- Mindful meditation
- Animal-assisted therapy
- Yoga therapy
We also provide talk therapy sessions to help you understand your condition better. In doing so, we can teach you new and more effective coping mechanisms to assist you in dealing with PTSD.
Suicide Linked To Ptsd
A report by the VA found the risk for suicide was 22 percent higher among veterans than civilians in the United States. And a February 2015 study in the Annals of Epidemiology found veterans who were on active duty during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars had a 41 to 61 percent higher risk of suicide than the general population. Another interesting takeaway from the study: Deployment wasnt associated with an increased risk of suicide. In fact, deployed vets had a lower risk of suicide than nondeployed vets.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention , while women attempt suicide more frequently, men are 4 times more likely to die by suicide than women.
Fortunately, with treatment, research shows that suicidal thoughts among people with PTSD decreases.
If you or a loved one is having suicidal thoughts stemming from PTSD, seek help immediately.
You can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline to do so: 800-273-8255.
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Sexual Assault And Ptsd
A sexual assault is a nonconsensual sexual encounter between at least two individuals. This kind of assault may occur through physical force against the victim, using a date rape drug to make them intoxicated, or when the victim is otherwise unable to consent. Roughly one in every five women reports being raped or sexually assaulted during their lifetime. The numbers for men and children are less well known because these conditions are likely underreported.
After the assault, the victim will likely experience confusion, anxiety, panic, guilt, shame, or fear. These are normal reactions to a traumatic event. However, if these feelings persist for several weeks, get worse over time, or do not occur until time has passed, the victim may develop PTSD.
There are specific triggers associated with people struggling with PTSD after a sexual assault.
Some of these may include:
- Seeing the aggressor or someone who looks like the aggressor
- Being in crowds
- Certain clothing, smells, places, or foods
- Verbal harassment on the street
- Jokes, especially those about rape or assault
- Trying to form relationships with others
Because substance abuse and PTSD are closely associated, it is important to get help if signs of PTSD surface. People who are victims of assault, crime, natural disasters, accidents, or combat are not at fault for their condition, and they deserve evidence-based treatment to help them heal.
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Eye Movement Desensitization And Reprocessing
EMDR is commonly used to treat PTSD, and it can be helpful for CPTSD as well. Youll be asked to briefly think about a traumatic moment while moving your eyes from side to side. Other techniques include having someone tap on your hands instead of moving your eyes. Over time, this process may help to desensitize you to traumatic memories and thoughts.
While theres some debate within the medical community over its use, the American Psychological Association conditionally recommends it for PTSD. This means that they recommend it but additional information is still needed due to insufficient evidence.
How Can I Help My Child Live With Ptsd
As a parent, you play a key role in your childs treatment. Here are things you can do to help:
Admit that the event happened. Pretending everything is normal won’t help your child.
Be supportive and get counseling for children and teens who have seen or gone through a traumatic event. A child or teen may at first not want counseling. But it may be needed months or even years after the traumatic event.
Keep all appointments with your child’s healthcare provider.
Talk with your childs healthcare provider about other providers who will be included in your childs care. Your child may get care from a team that may include counselors, therapists, social workers, psychologists, and psychiatrists. Your childs care team will depend on his or her needs and how serious the PTSD is.
Tell others about your childs PTSD. Work with your childs healthcare provider and school to create a treatment plan.
Reach out for support from local community services. Being in touch with other parents who have a child with PTSD may be helpful.
Take all symptoms of depression and suicide very seriously. Get treatment right away. Suicide is a health emergency.
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The Science Behind Ptsd
When someone goes through something traumatic, their body goes into fight, flight, or freeze mode. The nervous system is hard-wired to do this, as it tries to keep us from danger. The brain will create a hormonal cocktail that will cause us to either fight off an attack, run for our safety, or we just freeze.
For example, if you see a bear pop out from behind a tree while youre walking in the woods, your brain goes into action. Your heart rate increases. You become highly sensitive to your surroundings. Your brain puts you into the state of flight, fight, or freeze mode. Youre standing there, and within seconds youve got to decide what to do. Run? Fight? Stand still?
Regardless of what you do, that can be a traumatic experience, and your brain remembers incidents like that. If you choose to run away, within 30 minutes, your heart rate is back to normal, and you feel safe again. Your nervous system calms down.
Thats the way the brain functions.
However, with PTSD, your brain doesnt forget that event very easily. Yes, the experience was traumatic at that moment. Now change the scenario: Youre in a sporting goods store a few months later, and theyve got a taxidermied bear standing on two legs. You see that bear, and suddenly, you go into panic mode. Your heart rate increases and youre in fight, flight, or freeze mode again even though rationally you know that the dead, stuffed bear cant hurt you.
Tips To Get Out Of A Ptsd Episode
Traumatic events can have a lasting impact on your mental health. If you’ve experienced a violent assault or a serious accident, or if you’ve been involved in active combat, you may have an ongoing emotional response for days or even weeks. But if you’ve been haunted by trauma for months or years, you may have a condition called post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD.
Traumatic events can have a lasting impact on your mental health. If youve experienced a violent assault or a serious accident, or if youve been involved in active combat, you may have an ongoing emotional response for days or even weeks. But if youve been haunted by trauma for months or years, you may have a condition called post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD.PTSD is distinguished from other forms of anxiety by episodes, which are delayed stress reactions to the trauma you experienced in your past. These episodes are frightening when they occur but, with proper treatment, they can be effectively controlled.
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Identify Early Warning Signs
Take a time to learn about and write down the early warning signs that a PTSD symptom may be coming on. Most symptoms don’t suddenly occur, but are, in fact, preceded by these warning signs. Warning signs may include:
- Changes in how you think
- Changes in your mood
- Changes in your behavior
Learning to recognize these warning signs is important both when you are coping with PTSD daily and to avoid relapses as you heal.
Favorite Resources For Becoming An Advocate
Want to get involved with PTSD advocacy for yourself or a loved one who is a veteran of the Armed Forces? We like the PTSD Foundation of America for its resources on volunteer opportunities and fundraiser ideas. While youre at it, check out ways you can help sponsor a veteran or get involved in your local chapter.
Looking to change local and federal policy to support mental health initiatives? NAMI is your best resource for how to get involved. Even if you cant make it to Capitol Hill personally, NAMI offers ideas on how to write letters, engage in your own community, and more.
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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.
Causes And Risk Factors Of Ptsd
When traumatic events and revictimizations are controlled for, women are still diagnosed with PTSD more often than men, which suggests there may be a genetic factor at play, says Obianuju Berry, MD, a psychiatry instructor at Columbia University Medical Center in New York City. In fact, women are estimated to be twice as likely to develop PTSD as men.
Intergenerational transmission of trauma is an idea that the effects of trauma can be passed down to survivors children and grandchildren through their DNA or when fetal DNA is affected with exposure to risk factors, such as altered maternal care in utero, Dr. Pole says.
In fact, according to a study published in July 2017 in the journal Psychiatry Research, Jewish Israelis who were in Israel during the wave of terrorist attacks between 2015 and 2016, experienced trauma, and had all four grandparents who survived the Holocaust, saw a higher level of anxiety about ISIS anxiety than other groups.
The risk for intergenerational transmission of trauma is also greater on a persons maternal side. If the mother has PTSD, upon exposure to a traumatic event, the likelihood that the child would develop PTSD is greater when compared with the general population, says Arielle Schwartz, PhD, a clinical psychologist in Boulder, Colorado, and author of The Complex PTSD Workbook.
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Talking To Your Loved One About Ptsd Triggers
Ask your loved one about things theyve done in the past to respond to a trigger that seemed to help . Then come up with a joint game plan for how you will respond in future.
Decide with your loved one how you should respond when they have a nightmare, flashback, or panic attack. Having a plan in place will make the situation less scary for both of you. Youll also be in a much better position to help your loved one calm down.
How to help someone having a flashback or panic attack
During a flashback, people often feel a sense of disassociation, as if theyre detached from their own body. Anything you can do to ground them will help.
- Tell your loved one theyre having a flashback and that even though it feels real, the event is not actually happening again.
- Help remind them of their surroundings .
- Encourage them to take deep, slow breaths .
- Avoid sudden movements or anything that might startle them.
- Ask before you touch them. Touching or putting your arms around the person might make them feel trapped, which can lead to greater agitation and even violence.