Do Certain Events Trigger Anxiety Symptoms? You May Suffer from PTSD
Is this Anxiety, or PTSD?
When you are interacting with the world in your daily life, do you sometimes experience anxiety symptoms? Do you avoid certain situations because they bring up unwanted memories?
If so, you may be suffering from “triggers,” one of the anxiety symptoms related to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
What is a Trigger?
A trigger is something that causes you to relive a previous traumatic event in your mind. It can be something directly related to the event, such as seeing your assailant at trial. A trigger can also be indirectly related; something that is not connected at all to the traumatic event, but brings up the memory. Triggers may be extremely intense experiences, as PTSD is a fear-based response in which you are afraid for your personal safety or even your life.
What Causes a Trigger?
Almost anything can cause a trigger for someone who is struggling with the anxiety symptoms of PTSD. Did you ever see the movie Born on the Fourth of July? Tom Cruise’s character hears firecrackers go off as he is being wheeled in a parade. For those who hadn’t been in combat, the sound means nothing, but Cruise’s character is seen flinching, a response from fighting in Vietnam. Someone might also experience triggers in the following ways:
- Seeing a car accident reminds them of previous trauma.
- Hearing noises or sounds bring up fearful memories.
- Smelling certain odors may be reminders of a traumatic event.
- Tasting certain foods or touching particular textures may be anxiety triggers.
Whatever the cause, triggers can happen suddenly and without warning. This can be distressing if you are the one being triggered, as you might experience a trigger anytime during your day, making life unpredictable.
Who Experiences Triggers?
People who have been in the military have been known to experience PTSD. In fact, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has a National Center for PTSD that studies the condition. There are, however, other groups of people in the United States who suffer anxiety symptoms and triggers related to the disorder. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, these include:
- Victims of a traumatic act.
- Witnesses to a traumatic act.
- People who learn that a loved one has experienced a trauma..
- People who were exposed to repeated trauma.
Unfortunately, these categories can include just about anyone, regardless of gender, race, age, or socioeconomic status.
How Can I Address My Triggers?
PTSD sufferers may try to avoid triggers so that they don’t experience any anxiety symptoms. For instance, Christopher Bergland writes in Psychology Today about how he avoids a certain section of street in his city because he experienced two traumatic events there. Avoidance is a coping mechanism, but there are other ways to address PTSD and reduce anxiety symptoms. For instance:
- See a trained therapist to talk about your triggers and the feelings associated with them through techniques like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).
- Participate in a support group to learn from and receive encouragement from others also experiencing PTSD.
- Utilize exposure therapy, where you are gradually exposed to triggers and work with a therapist to process the emotions that come up.
- Practice calming techniques to reduce anxiety symptoms, such as through breathing exercises, meditation, and yoga.
Use Dogs to Manage Triggers
Dogs can also be helpful for those with PTSD. Well-trained dogs are loyal, fun to be with, and perceptive of human emotions. Service dogs, in particular, can be taught to help you if you are experiencing a trigger.
Living with anxiety symptoms related to PTSD can be difficult. If you are experiencing triggers related to trauma, it is important that you get help. By understanding the condition, how triggers occur, and utilizing therapeutic techniques, it is possible to be able to live a better life where you have more control over your triggers.