TRAUMA TRIGGERS are events/occurrences that remind us (on either a conscious or unconscious level) of our original traumatic experiences causing us to feel extreme distress similar to that felt at the time of that original trauma.
We are particularly likely to be affected by triggers at times of acute stress.
Some examples of trauma triggers include :
– SOUNDS :
For example, a voice that sounds similar to the voice of a parent who frequently threatened us, as children, with extreme physical violence
– OBJECTS :
For example, a baseball bat similar to one a parent used to threaten us with when we were children
– SMELLS :
For example, the smell of whisky on someone’s breath that reminds us of how a parent’s breath smelt at time of trauma
– PLACES :
For example, returning, as an adult, to the place where one suffered the original trauma
Due to this faulty processing and storage, when an event/occurrence happens that is reminiscent of the original trauma, we feel as if we are reliving the trauma in the ‘here and now’ and our reaction is therefore likely to be commensurately visceral.
In addition to the above physical responses, the individual may also feel that his/her mind is being flooded by a torrent of uncontrollable and intrusive images and emotions (such as terror) associated with the original trauma ; such reactions are referred to as ‘flashbacks‘, and you can read my article about these by clicking here.
An effect of severely traumatic memories not being processed and stored in the same way as ‘normal’ memories is that they are non-verbal and fragmentary in nature. For this reason, specific aspects (fragments) of the original traumatic memories are especially prone to being triggered by non-verbal cues such as those listed above (taste, smell etc).
David Hosier BSC Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).