PTSD Triggers

What is PTSD?

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health disorder caused by witnessing or experiencing a traumatic event. This disorder has a strong connection to addiction because those experiencing PTSD might turn to drugs or alcohol to self-medicate feelings of fear, anxiety, and stress. Different PTSD triggers can affect people with this mental health condition.

As stated by the scientific piece ‘Substance use, childhood traumatic experience, and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder in an urban civilian population’, published by the U.S. National Library of Medicine, exposure to traumatic experiences, especially those occurring in childhood, has been linked to substance use disorders (SUDs), including abuse and dependence. SUDs are also highly comorbid with Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and other mood-related psychopathology.

Most people who have suffered through traumatic events eventually overcome the anxiety, depression, and agitation caused by those experiences. But when PTSD develops, these symptoms don’t just go away. They might last for months or years after the event. PTSD can emerge as a result of witnessing or experiencing:

PTSD Triggers
Those experiencing PTSD might turn to drugs or alcohol to self-medicate feelings of fear, anxiety, and stress. Different PTSD triggers can affect people with this mental health condition.
  • Acts of terrorism
  • Sexual or physical assault during childhood or as an adult
  • The death of a loved one
  • Military combat
  • Serious accidents and injury
  • Natural disasters

PTSD and Addiction often co-occur in response to serious trauma. Getting a proper dual diagnosis is crucial to treating both conditions and getting sober.

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety disorder that is caused by a traumatic experience in a person’s life, such as military combat, sexual abuse, or car accidents. According to the National Center of PTSD, about 8 out of 100 Americans will suffer from PTSD. Some may experience symptoms that include flashbacks of the traumatic event, fighting thoughts, and bad dreams.

Signs and Symptoms of PTSD 

Symptoms of PTSD can change over time. Some symptoms might appear within three months of a traumatic episode, or it might take years until the disorder fully comes about.

PTSD impacts the parts of the brain associated with memory and emotions. A healthy brain can tell the difference between memories and present experiences, but PTSD interferes with this process. Someone with PTSD might react to a current environment that reminds them of past trauma. The brain responds as though the person is still in the past, triggering fear, anxiety, and stress.

Alcohol and drug addiction are also affected by memory. An addicted person’s brain is susceptible to triggers, or places, and people associated with drug use that can lead to cravings. PTSD and Addiction triggers can intertwine and intensify symptoms of both disorders.

PTSD Triggers
Treatment is essential for people who have this disorder, as it can help them develop strategies for effectively managing PTSD triggers.
Categories Of PTSD Symptoms:

Intrusive Memories

  • Repeated memories of the traumatic episode
  • Night terrors about the event
  • Vivid flashbacks of traumatic episodes
  • Extreme physical reactions to reminders of the traumatic event

Avoidance

  • Attempting to avoid talking or thinking about the traumatic episode
  • Trying to avoid people, places and activities that trigger memories of the event

Symptoms of PTSD can change over time. Some symptoms might appear within three months of a traumatic episode, or it might take years until the disorder fully comes about.

PTSD impacts the parts of the brain associated with memory and emotions. A healthy brain can tell the difference between memories and present experiences, but PTSD interferes with this process. Someone with PTSD might react to a current environment that reminds them of past trauma. The brain responds as though the person is still in the past, triggering fear, anxiety, and stress.

Alcohol and drug addiction are also affected by memory. An addicted person’s brain is susceptible to triggers, or places, and people associated with drug use that can lead to cravings. PTSD and Addiction triggers can intertwine and intensify symptoms of both disorders.

Categories Of PTSD Symptoms:

Intrusive Memories

  • Repeated memories of the traumatic episode
  • Night terrors about the event
  • Vivid flashbacks of traumatic episodes
  • Extreme physical reactions to reminders of the traumatic event

Avoidance

  • Attempting to avoid talking or thinking about the traumatic episode
  • Trying to avoid people, places and activities that trigger memories of the event

Drastic Changes in Thinking or Mood

  • Emotional numbness
  • Difficulty keeping close relationships
  • Being incapable of positive emotions
  • Lapses in memory
  • Negative feelings about self or others

Changes in Emotional Reactions

  • Irritability
  • Feeling “on guard” at all times
  • Overwhelming guilt or shame
  • Insomnia
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Self-destructive behavior (binge drinking or reckless driving)

PTSD Triggers

A person who experiences or witnesses a terrifying or shocking event can develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Symptoms of PTSD may include flashbacks, severe anxiety, and nightmares. Individuals who are affected by this condition may find themselves unable to stop thinking about the event that triggered their PTSD.

With self-care and healthy coping strategies, people may recover from this disorder. On the other hand, PTSD can worsen. It may last for months or years and impact every aspect of a person’s life. Treatment is essential for people who have this disorder, as it can help them develop strategies for effectively managing PTSD triggers.

Does PTSD Manifest in “Episodes” or a Constant “On-Edge?”

The short answer to this question is both. Some people with PTSD will experience acute episodes where their symptoms overwhelm them. However, they may also find that their symptoms are not constant; they occur in one episode rather than in an ongoing way. These episodes may involve obvious PTSD triggers– a violent movie scene or a jarring noise. On the other hand, sometimes an individual can’t identify why symptoms suddenly erupt. They may have experienced a nightmare that their conscious mind doesn’t recall. They may only be feeling down and then suddenly they’re struggling with severe anxiety and other PTSD symptoms.

Other PTSD sufferers may feel continuously on edge. Their anxiety, irritability, and other symptoms may always be brewing just beneath the surface. Also, other factors can perpetuate this heightened PTSD flight/fight state of being. Stressful situations at home or work can become PTSD triggers. Substance abuse or the presence of another mental or mood disorder can also lead to severe and continuous PTSD symptoms.

The Fight or Flight Response in PTSD

We’re all endowed with a fight or flight response when we encounter an alarming or dangerous situation or experience. When facing a fearful situation, humans feel an innate urge to flee or remain and fight. Many different experiences can become PTSD triggers to the fight or flight response. It’s up to our own internal hard-wiring to help us gauge the threat and flee or fight it. During the period when we’re experiencing this fight or flight mechanism, our heart rate increases and we sweat more. Our hearing may become more sensitive and we may even experience tunnel vision. Once the person gauges the threat and decides how to act, the symptoms of fight or flight dissipate.

For a person with PTSD, the fight or flight response gets stuck. During episodes, they don’t experience a quick dissipation of symptoms. People with PTSD may sense threats or danger everywhere even when they don’t exist. Their fight or flight response is always turned on, which means they’re living in a perpetual state of anxiety and fear.

Different PTSD Triggers

PTSD triggers may be internal or external– or both. Thoughts, feelings, and memories can trigger an episode involving severe PTSD symptoms. External triggers may involve places, situations, or even people. A bodily sensation can trigger an episode. Some common triggers for a PTSD episode include:

  • Negative emotions (anger, sadness, fear)
  • Pain
  • Anxiety
  • Muscle tension
  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Smells or sounds
  • Seeing something that is a reminder of the traumatic event
  • A nightmare or sudden memory
  • Words or phrases
  • Visual cues

Again, this is not an exhaustive list of PTSD triggers, but these are among the most common reasons PTSD symptoms erupt.

PTSD Treatment

No Shame or Stigma in Recognizing PTSD

PTSD is not a choice. It has nothing to do with an individual’s courage or strength. It is a mental disorder that affects men, women, and children. Some people may avoid or delay getting help with debilitating symptoms because they fear the stigma of a mental illness. In a given year, one in five adults experiences a mental health condition. The medical community has reported that in a given year, as many as eight million adults will suffer from PTSD and nearly 10 percent of the U.S. population will suffer from this condition at some point in their lives.

In other words, psychological problems and conditions are commonplace in the U.S. as they are elsewhere in the world. In so many of these cases, the condition’s development is completely beyond the person’s control. Yet, people experiencing PTSD symptoms can exert some control by reaching out for help. Without treatment, PTSD can increase in severity. With treatment, it can be managed and overcome.

Treatments such as medications and therapy can greatly improve quality of life and help individuals to cope with PTSD triggers when they arise. Without medical care, PTSD can become chronic and become a life-long condition. With high-quality mental health treatment, individuals can achieve full recovery. There’s no shame or stigma in admitting the presence of PTSD symptoms, but it would be a shame not to reach out for help.

PTSD Triggers
Treatments such as medications and therapy can greatly improve quality of life and help individuals to cope with PTSD triggers when they arise.

Reclaim Your Life From PTSD

PTSD is a disorder that can cause major health, social, and even economic problems that should not be taken lightly. No matter what are your PTSD triggers, We Level Up California can provide you, or someone you love, the tools to recover from PTSD with professional and safe treatment. Feel free to call us to speak with one of our counselors. We can inform you about this condition by giving you relevant information. Our specialists know what you are going through. Please know that each call is private and confidential.