Did you know PTSD triggers have the most contributing factot to symptoms of Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (CPTSD)?
A trigger describes the cause of a PTSD episode or onset of symptoms. With Complex PTSD your brain does not process trauma the same way a non-PTSD brain should. Given that, or triggers develop. A trigger is reminiscent of what took pace during one’s previous trauma. In essence, these will make someone with PTSD or CPTSD feel stressed and scared although danger is not present. Someone suffering from CPTSD can experience a trigger through any, or all five senses and other cognitive aspects.
For example, a trigger can be something they see, hear, feel, taste, smell, or think about. Either way, triggers are a reminder of the past trauma they went through. Essentially, these triggers bring back memories of the trauma and cause intense emotional and physical reactions. These reactions include anxiety, which in turn, can quickly evolve into a full PTSD episode. For most people with this disease, a trigger will remain a trigger unless alleviated through therapy and self-management.
Complex PTSD Triggers
Complex PTSD Triggers are typically produced by a sound or something someone can see. This applies to Complex PTSD(C-PTSD) too. There are differences between C-PTSD and PTSD. For someone with C-PTST a trigger can be how someone speaks to them. Soon after diagnosis, for example, my husband has dealt with a trigger from a family member that was not involved in the trauma what-so-ever. This family member would sometimes speak in an aggressive or demanding way to him. When this kind of communication took place it would send him into a severe episode with lasting effects for days after.
Today, this person can still use the same kind of tone and it doesn’t cause him to spiral into a painful episode.
Other CPTSD and PTSD Triggers include loud noises, pressure or judgement from others, and attending events with large numbers of people. In fact, simply talking about certain events that took place over the last two years also trigger such symptoms. It’s quite common to witness that the original cause for PTSD had been dealt with and is in remission. However, through other intense or traumatic events that took place after the initial diagnosis created new issues. It may seem as though when some PTSD triggers are eliminated, new ones can develop.
New Complex PTSD Triggers
A couple of short months after my husband’s diagnosis we went through an ugly custody battle over our oldest daughter. The entire experience caused continuous CPTSD episodes. This took place daily. In fact, only when we were visiting our daughter or in front of others did his symptoms subside. But as soon as we were alone again, his episode picked up right where it left off – at full speed. Needless to say, after the long court battle I noticed new triggers.
First, what I found was when I mentioned the opposing party by name it would cause severe symptoms. These symptoms included audio and visual hallucinations, hypervigilance, major rage, and extreme physical pain. Consequently, people who suffer from CPTSD and PTSD are more susceptible to developing what I call “new CPTSD”. This new CPTSD is in addition to the original CPTSD. Due to this happening, their issue is compounded on top of existing issues. This makes it more difficult to manage one’s triggers and symptoms. However, it is very possible to manage triggers through self-care and therapy.
Some Complex PTSD triggers are obvious like watching a news report on assault. Other triggers are not as obvious. For example if someone suffered trauma on a sunny day they may begin to get upset if they are outside and see a bright sunny and blue sky. This kind of trigger is more subliminal than the obvious kinds of CPTSD triggers. Their brain associates sight, touch, smell, and sound to their trauma. These become buttons to “triggering” their body’s alarm system to prepare for danger. Understanding your loved one’s triggers will help them become aware of them so they can work on each one.
Posted on Mental Health America’s website (2017) describes how one woman manages her PTSD triggers.
“As part of my recovery from PTSD, I created a visual space for my domestic violence memories; I built a closet (in my mind) where I kept my memories. I’d store memories separate, in boxes with lids on the shelves of the closet. When unwanted thoughts about the domestic violence I suffered crept into my life, I stopped the thought process by telling myself that now isn’t the time. I created an actual visual experience, in which I envisioned taking the memory, opening the closet, taking down an empty box, placing the unwanted memory or thought into the box, closing the box, labeling it and putting the box back on the shelf.
Then when I had quiet time or thought I was ready to confront a specific memory, I would visualize going into the closet and taking down the labeled box with that memory. I would open the box and examine the contents. Sometimes I cried, laughed, or mourned. When I had enough, I would put the memory back into the box. I found that, over time, there were fewer and fewer boxes in my closet. And the boxes were smaller and smaller. While I haven’t quite walled the closet over, the last time I went there, the closet was all but empty.”
Complex PTSD Triggers Therapy
This is actually a therapy that can be done alone at home. Be sure to practice in a quiet space free from noise and distractions. What Kathlene has done is minimized her CPTSD triggers by visualizing them. Especially, giving each one less significance each time she practiced this technique in managing her CPTSD symptoms. A similar therapy is called Rewind therapy. Rewind therapy is successful through guided meditation with a qualified therapist. However, someone can self-guide themselves through a rewind therapy session.
Similar to what Kathlene has shared, Rewind therapy can be described as an exposure therapy. Exposure therapy is not for everyone, and should be consulted through a licensed practitioner prior to attempting it alone. Although PTSD triggers are hard to manage at times, you or your loved one can experience CPTSD recovery and remission. Pinpointing what triggers their symptoms is the first place to start. Then, they can work on eliminating the triggers or reducing the effect a trigger has on their mentality. Finally, you both can enjoy a better quality of life by addressing, processing, and eliminating their Complex PTSD triggers; one at a time. It doesn’t matter how fast you go as long as you keep moving forward.
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