PTSD Triggers and Stressors

TRIGGERS

Is a term used a lot with PTSD. Often triggers are confused with stressors.

A trigger is something that makes you think directly to abuse/trauma.

An example of a trigger for me is guns, particularly guns used in situation to threaten people.

Other examples are a person’s facial expressions, a smell, words someone used, angry people etc.

Triggers often lead to flashbacks, intrusive memories.

STRESSORS‘ 

Are things that causes stress, irritate and can overload the already fragile PTSD brain.

Stressor is something that my brain finds difficult to cope with, like noise.

I cannot tolerate the sound of our vacuum cleaner.

Noise & sensory processing, are common issues with PTSD, due to the way the brain processes it.

Both Triggers and Stressors need to be managed. 

Triggers need to be avoided where possible and stressors need to be limited where possible, when healing from PTSD

Later in the healing process, when the PTSD symptoms are well managed, triggers, can be re-introduced under careful mangement.

PTSD STRESS THEORY

This theory was explained to me by my first trauma counsellor, and is a known theory within the PTSD field.

It explains why people with PTSD, cannot cope with the same amount of (brain) stress, as people without PTSD.

‘Brain Stress’ is anything the brain has to do for us to function.

This will include all we do subconsciously, like our internal organs working, breathing, moving, food digestion etc.

It also includes good and bad stress we deal with daily. Good stress, being anything the brain processes not causing negative emotions – eg taking a shower. Bad stress being anything that does cause negative emotions, like naughty children, noise (big PTSD stressors)

This is described a being when the ‘cup overflows’. In order to reduce this overflowing, no stress can be occurring, so the ‘cup empties’ a little, back to having room for daily stress again.

I know when my cup is overflowing, as I start to become irritable, and I know my coping capacity, reduces, quickly and stressors like noise, irritate me more than normal.

I have learned to reduce my daily activities, have relaxing time, and not plan too many things in one day.

I have learned to have relaxation time before anything anxiety/stress raising, and have relax time afterwards.

Along with all the breathing, mindfulness strategies, this is how I have learned to manage my ‘cup overflowing’.

I have to do this, because if my ‘cup overflows’ continually, my mood lowers, my emotions increase and all my complex PTSD symptoms then increase as a result, which results in complete incapacity, to cope and can become life threatening. PTSD – is a life threatening disorder, when severe.

It is why I always say, you will not learn to manage your PTSD well, if you have a busy, stressful daily life. Which cannot always be avoided, I understand, but it is essential for PTSD management, to have the least stressful life possible. Especially if the PTSD symptoms are severe, and while first learning to manage them.

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I would love to hear from you so please leave a comment. All feedback is much appreciated. Thank you. Erin

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