Common External Ptsd Triggers
- Sights, sounds, or smells associated with the trauma.
- People, locations, or things that recall the trauma.
- Significant dates or times, such as anniversaries or a specific time of day.
- Conversations or media coverage about trauma or negative news events.
- Situations that feel confining .
- Relationship, family, school, work, or money pressures or arguments.
- Funerals, hospitals, or medical treatment.
How To Handle Ptsd Flashbacks When They Happen
Its important to first realize that flashbacks are not a re-experiencing of the event, but, rather a very vivid memory something that happened in the past. No matter how real it feels, flashbacks are not trauma happening in the current moment flashbacks are symptoms of PTSD only.
To help remind yourself that the trauma is past and that youre safe in the present, changing the verb tense of how youre thinking or speaking can be helpful. It sounds simplistic but saying, I was attacked, rather than, Im being attacked, can actually make a big difference to how a flashback feels.
It is also very important to connect with your body and the current moment when coping with a flashback. This is called grounding.
According to the Manitoba Trauma Information and Education Centre, the following are ways to ground yourself to help deal with PTSD flashbacks:
- Name the experience as a flashback
- Use language that categorizes the flashbacks as a memory
- Use the senses to ground yourself in your current environment:
- Name what you see, feel, hear, smell and taste
- Rub your hands together
- Touch, feel the chair that is supporting you
- Wiggle your toes
- Remember your favorite color and find three things in the room that are that color
- Name the date, month, year and season
- Count backward from 100
Enlist The Help Of Others
If you know that you may be at risk for a flashback or dissociation by going into a certain situation, bring along some trusted support. Make sure that the person you bring with you is also aware of your triggers. They should know how to tell when you are entering a flashback or dissociative state, and how to respond to help you.
Research suggests that PTSD reduces social support resources, but that having strong social support helps lessen the impact of the condition. Reaching out for help and building your support network are essential when dealing with trauma-related symptoms.
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Tip : Rebuild Trust And Safety
Trauma alters the way a person sees the world, making it seem like a perpetually dangerous and frightening place. It also damages people’s ability to trust others and themselves. If there’s any way you can rebuild your loved one’s sense of security, it will contribute to their recovery.
Express your commitment to the relationship. Let your loved one know that you’re here for the long haul so they feel loved and supported.
Create routines. Structure and predictable schedules can restore a sense of stability and security to people with PTSD, both adults and children. Creating routines could involve getting your loved one to help with groceries or housework, for example, maintaining regular times for meals, or simply being there for the person.
Minimize stress at home. Try to make sure your loved one has space and time for rest and relaxation.
Speak of the future and make plans. This can help counteract the common feeling among people with PTSD that their future is limited.
Keep your promises. Help rebuild trust by showing that you’re trustworthy. Be consistent and follow through on what you say you’re going to do.
Emphasize your loved one’s strengths. Tell your loved one you believe they’re capable of recovery and point out all of their positive qualities and successes.
What Is Flashback Halting Protocol
Triggers can make it feel like you are living the traumatic event all over again. The flashback halting protocol aims to halt the flashback and bring you back to the present moment. This can help your mind and body realize that the trauma isnt actually happening anymore.
Next time you find yourself faced with a flashback, try reading and answering these questions to yourself:
- Right now, I am feeling _____ .
- And I am sensing in my body_____ .
- Because I am remembering _____ .
- And at the same time, it is now _____ .
- And I am here at _____ .
- And I can see _____ .
- And so I know that _____ is not happening now.
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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 one’s PTSD.
- Invalidate, minimize, or deny your loved one’s traumatic experience
- Give ultimatums or make threats or demands.
- Make your loved one feel weak because they aren’t coping as well as others.
- Tell your loved one they were lucky it wasn’t worse.
- Take over with your own personal experiences or feelings.
Identify Early Warning Signs
Flashbacks and dissociation may feel unpredictable and uncontrollable. However, there are often some early signs that you may be slipping into a flashback or a dissociative state. For example, your surroundings may begin to look fuzzy or you may feel as though you’re losing touch with your surroundings, other people, or even yourself.
Flashbacks and dissociation are easier to cope with and prevent if you can catch them early on. Therefore, it’s important to try to increase your awareness of their early symptoms.
Next time you experience an episode, revisit what you were feeling and thinking just before the flashback or dissociation occurred. Try to identify as many early symptoms as possible. The more early warning signs you can come up with, the better able you will be to prevent future episodes.
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Outlook For People With Ptsd
If you have PTSD or suspect you have PTSD, seeking help from a professional can help.
If left untreated, PTSD can affect your relationships and impact daily life. It can make it difficult to work, study, eat, or sleep. It may also lead to suicidal thoughts.
Fortunately, its possible to find effective treatments that reduce or even stop many of the symptoms of PTSD.
Every person has different needs and needs a unique treatment plan. What works for one person might not work for another. Ideally, your healthcare provider will help you find effective coping tools and therapies to manage your PTSD symptoms.
Tip : Take Care Of Yourself
Letting your family member’s PTSD dominate your life while ignoring your own needs is a surefire recipe for burnout and may even lead to secondary traumatization. You can develop your own trauma symptoms from listening to trauma stories or being exposed to disturbing symptoms like flashbacks. The more depleted and overwhelmed you feel, the greater the risk is that you’ll become traumatized.
In order to have the strength to be there for your loved one over the long haul and lower your risk for secondary traumatization, you have to nurture and care for yourself.
Take care of your physical needs: get enough sleep, exercise regularly, eat properly, and look after any medical issues.
Cultivate your own support system. Lean on other family members, trusted friends, your own therapist or support group, or your faith community. Talking about your feelings and what you’re going through can be very cathartic.
Make time for your own life. Don’t give up friends, hobbies, or activities that make you happy. It’s important to have things in your life that you look forward to.
Spread the responsibility. Ask other family members and friends for assistance so you can take a break. You may also want to seek out respite services in your community.
Set boundaries. Be realistic about what you’re capable of giving. Know your limits, communicate them to your family member and others involved, and stick to them.
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What Triggers A Flashback
PTSD flashbacks are often triggered by things that remind the person of the traumatic event they experienced. These triggers can be external, such as sights, sounds, smells, or locations that are associated with the trauma. They can also be internal, such as certain thoughts, emotions, or physical sensations that are similar to those experienced during the traumatic event. Some common triggers for PTSD and C-PTSD flashbacks include loud noises, crowds, physical contact, or the anniversary of the traumatic event. Its important to note that triggers can vary from person to person and can even be different for the same person at different times.
For some people, its easy to identify their triggers . Other triggers may take some time to identify and understand. For example, maybe a song was playing during your trauma, and now that song or even others in the same genre of music are triggers an assault victim may be triggered by the smell of alcohol if their attacker had been drinking etc.
Its important to understand too that emotions, internal feelings and sensations can also trigger PTSD symptoms.
Regain Focus Through Physical Activity
Many people who have been diagnosed with PTSD say that finding an enjoyable physical activity that they can perform regularly has helped them to reduce their levels of stress and cope with their symptoms.
Rebecca Thorne, who was diagnosed with PTSD following childhood trauma, explains how running has helped her to cope with the symptoms that were impacting her life.
I am a runner and I suffer from , she says. One of the many things I think about while Im running, and also when Im not, is the relationship between the two.
I embrace running in all weathers , always with a considerable amount of ascent. As I fight my way up the climbs, I often imagine that the hill is my illness and I am going to slowly and steadily conquer it. Yet it never feels like suffering and, once at the top of the hill, I can reach out and touch the sky.
Researchers from Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge in the United Kingdom found that surfing can be an effective coping strategy for war veterans diagnosed with PTSD.
According to the team, this sport helps veterans to attain a focused mind state known as flow, in which they are so absorbed in the activity they are performing that all other thoughts and emotions are pushed aside.
Dr. Nick Caddick, who was involved with the study, compares this with the effects of mindfulness meditation, just that it is more active. He calls it a moving form of mindfulness.
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Living With Someone Who Has Ptsd
When a partner, friend, or family member has post-traumatic stress disorder it affects you, too. PTSD isnt easy to live with and it can take a heavy toll on relationships and family life. You may be hurt by your loved ones distance and moodiness or struggling to understand their behaviorwhy they are less affectionate and more volatile. You may feel like youre walking on eggshells or living with a stranger. You may also have to take on a bigger share of household tasks and deal with the frustration of a loved one who wont open up. The symptoms of PTSD can even lead to job loss, substance abuse, and other problems that affect the whole family.
Its hard not to take the symptoms of PTSD personally, but its important to remember that a person with PTSD may not always have control over their behavior. Your loved ones nervous system is stuck in a state of constant alert, making them continually feel vulnerable and unsafe, or having to relive the traumatic experience over and over. This can lead to anger, irritability, depression, mistrust, and other PTSD symptoms that your loved one cant simply choose to turn off.
With the right support from you and other family and friends, though, your loved ones nervous system can become unstuck. With these tips, you can help them to finally move on from the traumatic event and enable your life together to return to normal.
Understanding Ptsd Flashbacks And Triggers
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is a mental health condition that can develop after a person has experienced or witnessed a traumatic event, such as war, a natural disaster, sexual assault, or other violence. One common symptom of both PTSD and C-PTSD is flashbacks, which are involuntary, intense and often distressing memories of the traumatic event that can be triggered by certain stimuli.
PTSD flashbacks can take many forms and can vary in intensity and duration. They can be experienced as vivid and disturbing memories that feel like they are happening again in the present moment. These flashbacks can be accompanied by intense emotional reactions, such as fear, anxiety, or anger. They can also cause physical reactions, such as a racing heart, difficulty breathing, or a feeling of detachment from the body.
Some people may experience flashbacks as visual images, such as seeing the traumatic event play out in their minds eye. Others may experience flashbacks as sounds, smells, or other sensations that are associated with the trauma. These flashbacks can be so vivid and realistic that the person may have trouble distinguishing them from reality.
These flashbacks can be disruptive to a persons daily life and can make it difficult for them to function normally. They may avoid certain places or situations that remind them of the traumatic event, and may have difficulty maintaining relationships or holding down a job.
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Dealing With The Onset Of Flashbacks
Flashbacks are major PTSD intrusive thoughts and a common PTSD symptom. They’re considered one of the re-experiencing symptoms of PTSD.
If you’ve ever had a flashback, you know it can feel as though your traumatic event is happening all over again. Thinking that you were facing the original threat, you may have reacted suddenly and aggressively, trying to escape or protect yourself. You may even have injured yourself or others before the flashback ended. Like others with PTSD, you may be looking for ways to reduce your risk of flashbacks. Learning more about your flashback triggers may help you prevent some of them.
If you or a loved one are struggling with PTSD, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357 for information on support and treatment facilities in your area.
For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database.
Why Do Flashbacks Occur
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is essentially a memory filing error caused by a traumatic event. When you experience something really traumatic your body suspends normal operations and temporarily shuts down some bodily functions such as memory processing.
During trauma, your brain thinks processing and understanding what is going on right now is not important! Getting your legs ready to run, your heart rate up, and your arms ready to fight this danger is whats important right now, Ill get back to the processing later.
As such, until the danger passes, the mind does not produce a memory for this traumatic event in the normal way. When your brain eventually goes back to try to process the trauma, the mind presents the situation as a memory for filing, but as it does not exist in your memory yet, it sees it as a situation in the current timeline, and so it can be very distressing.
The distress comes from the fact that the brain is unable to recognise this as a memory as it hasnt been processed as one. As such, if something reminds you of the trauma , the facts of what happened, the emotions associated with the trauma and the sensations touch, taste, sound, vision, movement, and smell can be presented by the mind in the form of flashbacks as if they are happening right now.
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Getting Help For Sleep Problems
Sleep problems are common among people with PTSD. They’re considered a PTSD hyperarousal symptom–meaning that they stem from a high level of anxiety.
If you have PTSD and problems sleeping, it’s important to find ways to improve your sleep. Sleep problems can make your other PTSD symptoms worse. In addition, poor sleep can negatively impact your effectiveness at work or school.
Why Does Your Brain Do This
You probably have experienced your senses being attached to your memories before: the smell mulled wine can bring back memories of a great Christmas party, or a song can remind you of a great night out you once had. Most people have so-called flashbulb memories of where they were and what they were doing when something momentous happened: When Princess Diana died, when they heard about the events of 9/11 etc so its clear that a memory is an all encompassing event, and a traumatic memory is no different.
Today, you are reading this page. What if I said tomorrow, I shall ask you to recall the memory of being on this website, and reading this page. When you came to recall it, you would recollect the whole event not just the reading. You would perhaps be able to tell me where you were sitting, who you were with, that the tv was on in the background, that you were wearing your pyjamas, that you could smell your soup cooking in the kitchen, that you would hear your neighbours dog barking etc. The memory of simply reading a website would contain lots of smaller details, all related to that event.
Because of this, PTSD and C-PTSD sufferers can have many triggers sounds, smells, physical sensations, tastes, things you see, emotions you feel etc can all bring back the trauma, presented as real life a flashback.
In order to combat and reduce flashbacks, its important to understand your triggers.
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