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
Because severely traumatic memories are so overwhelming, the brain fails to process or store them in the normal way; this prevents us from subjectively relegating the traumatic events, or the feelings associated with them, to the past.
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.
Biological Reactions To Trauma Triggers :
Our biological reactions to trauma triggers may include :
– increased heart rate
– feelings of nausea
– rapid and shallow breathing/breathing difficulties
Other Reactions :
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.
Implications Of Non-Verbal And Fragmentary Nature Of Traumatic Memories :
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 be triggered by non-verbal cues such as those listed above (taste, smell etc).
Complex PTSD :
Experiencing ‘flashbacks’ as a result of trauma triggers is a major symptom of complex PTSD. You can read my article about complex PTSD by clicking here.
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David Hosier BSC Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).