How to Identify and Cope With Your PTSD Triggers By Matthew Tull, PhD


PTSD triggers may be all around you. Even though it may sometimes feel like PTSD symptoms come out-of-the-blue, PTSD symptoms rarely spontaneously occur. Instead, whether you are aware of it not, PTSD symptoms are often triggered or cued by something in our internal (anything that happens within your body such as thoughts or feelings) or external (anything that happens outside your body, such as a stressful situation) environment.


Because certain thoughts, feelings, or situations can bring up uncomfortable PTSD symptoms, such as memories of a traumatic event or feelings of being on edge and anxious, one way of coping with these symptoms is by increasing your awareness of these triggers. You can prevent or lessen the impact of certain PTSD symptoms by identifying what specific types of thoughts, feelings, and situations trigger them, and then, take steps to limit the occurrence or impact of those triggers.


Kinds of Triggers

Triggers can fall into two categories: Internal Triggers and External Triggers. Internal triggers are things that you feel or experience inside your body. Internal triggers include thoughts or memories, emotions, and bodily sensations (for example, your heart racing). External triggers are situations, people, or places that you might encounter throughout your day (or things that happen outside your body).


Listed below are some common internal and external triggers.

Internal Triggers
Feeling lonely
Feeling abandoned
Feeling out of control
Feeling vulnerable
Racing heartbeat
Muscle tension

External Triggers
An argument
Seeing a news article that reminds you of your traumatic event
Watching a movie or television show that reminds you of your traumatic event
Seeing a car accident
Certain smells
The end of a relationship
An anniversary
A specific place
Seeing someone who reminds you of a person connected to your traumatic event

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