I just came across this great article on triggers on the MyPTSD forum, and I wanted to share it. This is a great insight into the mind of a survivor of PTSD: Dylan breaks down the effects of triggering step by step:
- The brain unconsciously evaluates stimuli at incredible speed, and sometimes the triggering process begins during this stage, which may make the survivor unaware that s/he is triggered.
- Any vague resemblance to actual trauma sends of the “DANGER” meter in the brain. Ensuring survival means shutting down blood passages to little muscle groups (think hands and feet), and some cognitive functioning of the brain shuts down, triggering the fight/flight/freeze response.
- Adrenaline shoots up, epinephrine and norepinephrine shoot up, cortisol levels spike, and when the trigger has ended and there’s no actual danger, the body is exhausted, so it crashes.
These three processes are designed to keep us as humans safe and the ability to get out of dangerous situations when there are legitimate threats. However, in the case of PTSD, the danger alert is always high—managing symptoms is a constant battle (as I’ve previously discussed).
These processes can also be self-traumatizing if not coped with properly. A trigger starts the process, and sometimes, the brain has nowhere to go when the trigger stops. A survivor can be triggered by the process of triggering if the perceived danger is threatening enough.
The author of the article mentions coping methods like aerobic exercise to bring the levels of adrenaline, cortisol, epinephrine, and norepinephrine down; meditation to bring the cognitive part of the brain back into control; and yoga to reunify the body and mind (like a grounding exercise).
Compassionate self-communication rounds out the article, helping to reconcile the experience with oneself. Quietly reminding oneself that they are safe and accepting the experience helps to cope with the trigger.
Please read this article and the responses. They are quite enlightening, and definitely worth your while.