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Author Topic: PERSPECTIVES: What is PTSD and how do you define "trigger"?  (Read 8784 times)
blackandwhite
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« on: July 18, 2010, 12:24:35 AM »

From the United States Department of Veterans Affairs National Center on PTSD
(http://www.ptsd.va.gov/public/pages/what-is-ptsd.asp)


What Is PTSD?

Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety disorder that can occur after you have been through a traumatic event. A traumatic event is something horrible and scary that you see or that happens to you. During this type of event, you think that your life or others' lives are in danger. You may feel afraid or feel that you have no control over what is happening.

Anyone who has gone through a life-threatening event can develop PTSD. These events can include:

    * Combat or military exposure
    * Child sexual or physical abuse
    * Terrorist attacks
    * Sexual or physical assault
    * Serious accidents, such as a car wreck.
    * Natural disasters, such as a fire, tornado, hurricane, flood, or earthquake.

After the event, you may feel scared, confused, or angry. If these feelings don't go away or they get worse, you may have PTSD. These symptoms may disrupt your life, making it hard to continue with your daily activities.

How Does PTSD Develop?

All people with PTSD have lived through a traumatic event that caused them to fear for their lives, see horrible things, and feel helpless. Strong emotions caused by the event create changes in the brain that may result in PTSD.

Most people who go through a traumatic event have some symptoms at the beginning. Yet only some will develop PTSD. It isn't clear why some people develop PTSD and others don't. How likely you are to get PTSD depends on many things:

    * How intense the trauma was or how long it lasted
    * If you lost someone you were close to or were hurt
    * How close you were to the event
    * How strong your reaction was
    * How much you felt in control of events
    * How much help and support you got after the event

Many people who develop PTSD get better at some time. But about 1 out of 3 people with PTSD may continue to have some symptoms. Even if you continue to have symptoms, treatment can help you cope. Your symptoms don't have to interfere with your everyday activities, work, and relationships.

What Are the Symptoms of PTSD?

Symptoms of PTSD can be terrifying. They may disrupt your life and make it hard to continue with your daily activities. It may be hard just to get through the day.

PTSD symptoms usually start soon after the traumatic event, but they may not happen until months or years later. They also may come and go over many years. If the symptoms last longer than 4 weeks, cause you great distress, or interfere with your work or home life, you probably have PTSD.

There are four types of PTSD symptoms:

   1. Reliving the event (also called re-experiencing symptoms):

      Bad memories of the traumatic event can come back at any time. You may feel the same fear and horror you did when the event took place. You may have nightmares. You even may feel like you're going through the event again. This is called a flashback. Sometimes there is a trigger -- a sound or sight that causes you to relive the event. Triggers might include:
          * Hearing a car backfire, which can bring back memories of gunfire and war for a combat Veteran.
          * Seeing a car accident, which can remind a crash survivor of his or her own accident.
          * Seeing a news report of a sexual assault, which may bring back memories of assault for a woman who was raped.

   2. Avoiding situations that remind you of the event:

      You may try to avoid situations or people that trigger memories of the traumatic event. You may even avoid talking or thinking about the event. For example:
          * A person who was in an earthquake may avoid watching television shows or movies in which there are earthquakes.
          * A person who was robbed at gunpoint while ordering at a hamburger drive-in may avoid fast-food restaurants.
          * Some people may keep very busy or avoid seeking help. This keeps them from having to think or talk about the event.

   3. Feeling numb:

      You may find it hard to express your feelings. This is another way to avoid memories.
          * You may not have positive or loving feelings toward other people and may stay away from relationships.
          * You may not be interested in activities you used to enjoy.
          * You may not be able to remember parts of the traumatic event or not be able to talk about them.
  
4. Feeling keyed up (also called hyperarousal):

      You may be jittery, or always alert and on the lookout for danger. This is known as hyperarousal. It can cause you to:
          * Suddenly become angry or irritable
          * Have a hard time sleeping.
          * Have trouble concentrating.
          * Fear for your safety and always feel on guard.
          * Be very startled when something surprises you.

What Are Other Common Problems?

People with PTSD may also have other problems. These include:

    * Drinking or drug problems.
    * Feelings of hopelessness, shame, or despair.
    * Employment problems.
    * Relationships problems including divorce and violence.
    * Physical symptoms.

Can Children Have PTSD?

Children can have PTSD too. They may have the symptoms described above or other symptoms depending on how old they are. As children get older, their symptoms are more like those of adults. Here are some examples of PTSD symptoms in children:

    * Young children may become upset if their parents are not close by, have trouble sleeping, or suddenly have trouble with toilet training or going to the bathroom.
    * Children who are in the first few years of elementary school (ages 6 to 9) may act out the trauma through play, drawings, or stories. They may complain of physical problems or become more irritable or aggressive. They also may develop fears and anxiety that don't seem to be caused by the traumatic event.


What Treatments Are Available?


When you have PTSD, dealing with the past can be hard. Instead of telling others how you feel, you may keep your feelings bottled up. But treatment can help you get better.

There are good treatments available for PTSD. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)appears to be the most effective type of counseling for PTSD. There are different types of cognitive behavioral therapies such as cognitive therapy and exposure therapy. A similar kind of therapy called EMDR, or eye movement desensitization and reprocessing, is also used for PTSD. Medications can be effective too. A type of drug known as a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI), which is also used for depression, is effective for PTSD.

****

A member on the coping with relatives board, Emmy24, started an interesting thread called "triggers list" at http://bpdfamily.com/message_board/index.php?topic=124151.0. I think this is a great topic to explore. We use the word "trigger" a lot on the Coping and Healing Board, sometimes rather loosely. Emmy defined it as "things that trigger feelings of FOG, anxiety, or those bad memories/disappointments in ourselves," which is a nice definition, but I find it can be a bit of a squishy word and be used in different ways. In particular, in the context of PTSD, "trigger" is something that leads to PTSD symptoms. That's a pretty specific use of the term. More generally and out of a PTSD context, "trigger" may have other meanings for some of us. It can help to be clear about what we mean.

How do you define "trigger"?

B&W
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« Reply #1 on: July 18, 2010, 01:50:33 AM »

I would say that for me anyway, I use the word "trigger" to mean something that instantly generates a strong negative emotional response in me.  For me a "trigger" bypasses the more rational, logical parts of my brain and instantly presses some negative emotional button or other.

Sometimes it takes a LOT of effort to pull back the reins and stay in the moment and realize that its not OK to act on the triggering event/words/situation, even if I'm feeling the emotion strongly.  I can't help my lightning-fast emotional feeling RE a trigger, but I can help how I act.  Unlike my bpd/NPD momster, I can put on the emotional brakes.  I can leave.  I can count to ten.  I can maintain self-control (most of the time.)

For example, having someone crowd me in line to the point of bumping me with their cart, or touching me with their body or breathing on me will trigger my irritation. (But I react by repositioning myself, such as placing my cart between me and the pushy person.  That usually works.)   A sudden, loud, unexpected noise near me can trigger my startle reaction and a brief but mindless fear.   (I just try to breath slowly, let the pain pass, and not let it ruin my day.)  Seeing some adult physically assault a child triggers my anger.   (This one is hard, but I try to switch into "investigator" mode and not sound angry or upset.  Instead I try to find out what's going on first.)  Discovering that I'm about to drive over a tall, long bridge can trigger a panic attack. (This one is hard, too.  If I can turn around, I will.  If I'm stuck with no options, I have a few techniques that can help distract me from focusing on the height and the edge of the bridge, but they don't last very long.)

Me personally, I don't think of a "trigger" in association with positive emotions, although a good joke will actually "trigger" a laugh, I suppose.

-LOAnnie
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« Reply #2 on: July 18, 2010, 08:00:02 AM »

I just started using the word because I just started noticing them.  But I am with LOAnnie in definition. 

Sometimes its like a tiny thing, like hearing someone who breathes like my father, and I feel a panic triggered.  I know it isnt him.  I know he isnt going to hurt me.  But panic takes over.

Then other times its kind of pulling me into a flash back or into a specific time/moment.  Triggering a memory or set of feelings.  Like my niece texting me when her parents were fighting. 
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« Reply #3 on: July 18, 2010, 10:35:06 AM »


I agree blackandwhite that the word 'trigger' can mean different things but I use it when I'm referring to something that's caused a negative emotional response for me. The degree or intensity can be different and the response can come on in an instant and be strong and terrifying or it can come on slow and be uncomfortable but not a 'matter of life and death' .   

I may have made the decision to go and visit my mother and it's a nice day and I feel that I can handle it but slowly I begin to feel anxious and may react to someone's driving or that the light turned red just as I got there and sometimes it seems that all the traffic lights are turning red on me or I need to stop and get gas or do some chore for my mother and I start feeling 'closed in.'   These small, barely noticeable things seem to keep increasing and my anxiety too is increasing so now by the time I've arrived at my mother's, I've changed from the calm and happy person who I was when I started out to be irritable, angry, and already exhausted with feelings of doom.
 
Then there is the instant triggers that send me into a panic. I didn't mention the problems I have with necklaces/chains or something that is around my neck.  It's not that I can't wear this kind of jewelry or even certain clothes but at the second that I feel it has to come off, it has to come off or I freak out. I usually don't have the time nor can I find the clasp without some fumbling around and I end up pulling it off in a panic, breaking/tearing it.

 At this point anyway, I'm not able to control that panic because all rational thought just stops and it's like this blindness to everything else comes over me and nothing, absolutely nothing else is important but stopping the feeling.  This is when I 'run' or 'escape' to get out of the situation in what ever way I can and some of my 'exits' have not been pretty.  I have not been able to find any other way of lessening, soothing or calming the terror I feel when the panic sets in other then getting myself away physically.

justhere

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« Reply #4 on: July 18, 2010, 11:10:10 AM »

Great question!
I agree with the others:  definitely a negative thing for me.
It's an overreaction on my part to something going on around me.
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« Reply #5 on: July 18, 2010, 12:35:56 PM »

Interesting observations on the term "trigger" so far. I'm seeing as some factors:

*negative
*overreaction
*varying in degree and intensity (from mild anxiety to full panic, perhaps along other feeling scales as well?)
*being pulled into a past experience (flashback), memory, or set of feelings

Here's one definition, from wikipedia:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trauma_trigger
Quote
A trauma trigger is an experience that triggers a traumatic memory in someone who has experienced trauma. A trigger is thus a troubling reminder of a traumatic event, although the trigger itself need not be frightening or traumatic.

Triggers can be quite diverse, appearing in the form of individual people, places, noises, images, smells, tastes, emotions, animals, films, scenes within films, dates of the year, tones of voice, body positions, bodily sensations, weather conditions, time factors, or combinations thereof. Triggers can be subtle and difficult to anticipate, and can sometimes exacerbate post-traumatic stress disorder, a condition in which trauma survivors cannot control the recurrence of emotional or physical symptoms, or of repressed memory. A trauma trigger may also be referred to as a trauma stimulus or a trauma stressor.

I'll try to find other formal definitions. The term is used quite extensively in relation to PTSD/trauma recovery.

B&W
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« Reply #6 on: July 18, 2010, 02:32:56 PM »

from dictionary.com

nanything, as an act or event, that serves as a stimulus and initiates or precipitates a reaction or series of reactions

vto initiate or precipitate (a chain of events, scientific reaction, psychological process, etc.): Their small protest triggered a mass demonstration.


also, from www.psychcentral.com

What is a Trigger?
By U. of Alberta

A trigger is something that sets off a memory tape or flashback transporting the person back to the event of her/his original trauma.

Triggers are very personal; different things trigger different people. The survivor may begin to avoid situations and stimuli that she/he thinks triggered the flashback. She/he will react to this flashback, trigger with an emotional intensity similar to that at the time of the trauma. A person’s triggers are activated through one or more of the five senses: sight, sound, touch, smell and taste. ...


http://psychcentral.com/lib/2008/what-is-a-trigger/
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« Reply #7 on: July 18, 2010, 03:07:56 PM »

A trigger for me, is any person, place or situation that invokes the "fight or flight" impulse within.
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« Reply #8 on: July 18, 2010, 04:44:31 PM »

In the context of experiences with a  less-than-entirely-functional FOO (and no FOO is *entirely* functional), I'd say that a trigger is an action, pattern of speech, etc., that "pushes a button" -- instigates a longstanding negative-thought loop -- that the FOO installed/originally created in the individual in question (who said, "they know how to push our buttons; they installed them"?; it was somebody here).  The FOO doesn't have to be present for the button to be pushed/trigger to be triggered, the situation, wording of a comment, thinking underlying the comment, etc. just has to resemble the one from the FOO.  I suspect the same can be true for people who experienced trauma (war, rape, etc.) not associated with a FOO. 

Interestingly, my uBPD stepmother rarely does things, accidentally or on purpose, that trigger me.  She doesn't know or understand me well enough to really hurt me (except by separating me from my father), nor do her values, frames of reference, etc., overlap much with mine. My father, on the other hand, can definitely trigger me, as can situations, professional or personal, that in some way resemble those in my FOO (e.g. high expectations combined with not-so-benign neglect; the suggestion that my preference for spending considerable amounts of time alone means there's something wrong with me; other forms of diagnosing/psychologizing of disagreements). 

I think there's also a related but somewhat different meaning associated with addiction: in that context, a trigger is a situation that creates or strengthens the impulse to behave in an addictive/self-destructive way.  E.g. an alcoholic might realize that he/she typically coped with a fight with an SO by going on a drinking binge (i.e. that fighting was one of the triggers for his/her drinking), and would resolve to call a sponsor or head for a meeting after a fight instead. 

For FOO or other trauma-created triggers, I think the issue is not so much to avoid the reaction that usually follows (partly because that's impossible; as others have suggested above, these reactions have often become "built in" biochemically), but to recognize that the reaction, because it's associated with past experiences, may be disproportional or even inappropriate to the actual present situation, and to try to delay any response long enough to allow the more rational part of the mind to kick in and play a role in assessing what's actually going on in the present.  I think it also makes sense to share triggers with people we care about and interact regularly with (at least the sane ones), since it can help them understand our reactions and, when possible, avoid triggering us unnecessarily (on the other hand, I'm a pretty strong believer that each of us is responsible for managing his/her own emotions, and reactions to them; a completely trigger-free environment, even among intimates, is probably not possible or even, perhaps, desirable). 
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« Reply #9 on: July 18, 2010, 04:51:40 PM »

allergic to drama summed up my triggers. I do need to tell the difference between trigger and legitimate fears. 
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« Reply #10 on: July 18, 2010, 05:49:07 PM »

For me, it's anything that sends me into insta-rage, anxiety or FOG and leaves me wondering "where the hell did THAT come from?"  I'm getting better at noticing the relationship between events and my reactions, and being able to identify what triggered me, but it's not me-proof yet.
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« Reply #11 on: July 18, 2010, 11:30:31 PM »

I agree, it can definitely be a ptsd reaction. For me triggers would be defined as definitely negative.
I can feel really sick, really fast sometimes, it is that upsetting.
A flash of anger sometimes.
A deep sadness others.
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« Reply #12 on: July 19, 2010, 04:33:26 AM »

for me, its an emotional response that takes me back to the group of emotions i experienced as a child growing up with a ubpdm and uNPDf. those being; feeling trapped, panic, overwhelmed, fear, intense anxiety, unable to breathe and fear for my life.

they are thankfully becoming less and less in my life, and the people who do cause them knowingly, i am nc with now.  smiley
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« Reply #13 on: July 19, 2010, 09:04:19 AM »

Thanks for the info, bpdfamfan! There's also quite a good article about this at about.com: http://ptsd.about.com/od/selfhelp/a/CopingTriggers.htm. It defines "trigger" as "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" that cues PTSD symptoms.

Many of you on this thread and on the other one I referenced have identified specific things that are triggers for you.

Quote
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 [to follow].

Internal Triggers
•Anger
•Anxiety
•Sadness
•Memories
•Feeling lonely
•Feeling abandoned
•Frustration
•Feeling out of control
•Feeling vulnerable
•Racing heart beat
•Pain
•Muscle tension

Most of the examples on this thread so far are external, cued from outside you. Do you experience internal triggers? If so, what are they?

It's probably a chicken and egg question sometimes, but I certainly have (internal) memories and even sensations that trigger me. Several of you described feelings of panic or flashes of anger. Justhere, you mentioned sensitivity around a specific area of your body. I have that as well, and if I feel physically constrained (even by just a blanket) I can get panicked and start down a fight or flight spiral.

Quote
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
•Holidays
•A specific place
•Seeing someone who reminds you of a person connected to your traumatic event

allergictodrama said:
Quote
For FOO or other trauma-created triggers, I think the issue is not so much to avoid the reaction that usually follows (partly because that's impossible; as others have suggested above, these reactions have often become "built in" biochemically), but to recognize that the reaction, because it's associated with past experiences, may be disproportional or even inappropriate to the actual present situation, and to try to delay any response long enough to allow the more rational part of the mind to kick in and play a role in assessing what's actually going on in the present.


Has anyone ever kept a journal of triggers, or otherwise tried to identify them systematically? (Emmy's thread and this one provide a good opportunity!). It might be worth trying for a few days and seeing what you learn. Once we have a good sense of our triggers (and some will already have done this work), it's much easier to start to figure out what to do about them.

If you've identified your triggers, you might try describing for yourself or here what exactly they trigger. What feelings, sensations, memories?

I've identified many of my main triggers:

•being in the car
•anything near the front of my neck
•sharp noises (like whistling)
•anyone coming up behind me
•things flashing in my peripheral vision
•certain songs
•being tickled
•being physically constrained
•witnessing certain kinds of violence
•someone relentlessly coming at me (even just verbally)

Some of the feelings, sensations, and memories they trigger include rage, terror, panic (heartbeat goes up, rapid shallow breathing), irritability, confusion, sadness, and a "freeze" reaction.

B&W
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« Reply #14 on: July 19, 2010, 11:01:04 AM »

I think that it would be good to keep track of the triggers and in a way I've been already doing that and it's helping me to see the connection between my feelings/emotions and my environment and the other people in my life. I never realized though until reading this thread that the sadness I feel some days in the summer just before the sun sets was a trigger to me for past memories as some of these triggers are so subtle and appear to have little to do with the actual pain/feeling.

I can see how even the thought of going to visit my mother would set off feelings of anger, resentment, feeling trapped etc but the other triggers, the ones that bring me the terror and panic, I have no idea what they are about or where they come from and their meaning for me is hidden.  I know that I'm not in any danger from a necklace but either the sensation of it being around my neck or the thought that I can't get it off for some reason sets off the alarm that this is a matter of life and death and I must protect myself.  I have no memory of anything that happened in the past and I don't feel any other feelings either before or after with the exception of relief that I survived.  Even the embarrassment that you'd think I would feel from over reacting and running around like a crazy person to something that was no threat, doesn't fizz on me because in my mind my actions were justified because I had no choice and that makes no sense at all to me.

 The other big trigger for me is when I think about my breathing.  I'm ok for a couple of breaths and then I start to feel that I can't breathe, that the air is not going in even though I know that I'm still breathing and the more I try to logically deal with this, the faster I go into a panic. As this usually happens when I'm laying down in bed, I can stop the panic by getting up and distracting myself, have something to eat, watch television, even read and I've always been able to settle myself but it will start right up again if I think about it.

justhere

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« Reply #15 on: July 19, 2010, 11:01:46 AM »

I find the definition of "internal triggers" (indicated in the post quoted below) confusing.  It seems more logical to me that a racing heart, or anger, or fear are the result of being triggered, not the trigger itself.

Wouldn't an "internal trigger" be more like a bad memory that then results in a racing heart or anger or fear?

Or is that what you were referring to when you said it was a "what came first, the chicken or the egg?" kind of situation?

If you start out from a "point zero" of calm centered-ness, wouldn't a trigger then by necessity have to be either:
(a) external sensory input (words, speech, visuals, sensation, smell, taste),
or
(b) an internal random memory
that then generates:
(c) the negative emotions (fear, anxiety, anger, shame)
that results in:
(d) the physical symptoms
(rapid heartbeat, sweating, breathing hard, feeling like you're going to pass out, etc.)?

-LOAnnie



Thanks for the info, bpdfamfan! There's also quite a good article about this at about.com: http://ptsd.about.com/od/selfhelp/a/CopingTriggers.htm. It defines "trigger" as "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" that cues PTSD symptoms.

Many of you on this thread and on the other one I referenced have identified specific things that are triggers for you.

Quote
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 [to follow].

Internal Triggers
•Anger
•Anxiety
•Sadness
•Memories
•Feeling lonely
•Feeling abandoned
•Frustration
•Feeling out of control
•Feeling vulnerable
•Racing heart beat
•Pain
•Muscle tension

Most of the examples on this thread so far are external, cued from outside you. Do you experience internal triggers? If so, what are they?

It's probably a chicken and egg question sometimes, but I certainly have (internal) memories and even sensations that trigger me. Several of you described feelings of panic or flashes of anger. Justhere, you mentioned sensitivity around a specific area of your body. I have that as well, and if I feel physically constrained (even by just a blanket) I can get panicked and start down a fight or flight spiral.

Quote
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
•Holidays
•A specific place
•Seeing someone who reminds you of a person connected to your traumatic event

allergictodrama said:
Quote
For FOO or other trauma-created triggers, I think the issue is not so much to avoid the reaction that usually follows (partly because that's impossible; as others have suggested above, these reactions have often become "built in" biochemically), but to recognize that the reaction, because it's associated with past experiences, may be disproportional or even inappropriate to the actual present situation, and to try to delay any response long enough to allow the more rational part of the mind to kick in and play a role in assessing what's actually going on in the present.


Has anyone ever kept a journal of triggers, or otherwise tried to identify them systematically? (Emmy's thread and this one provide a good opportunity!). It might be worth trying for a few days and seeing what you learn. Once we have a good sense of our triggers (and some will already have done this work), it's much easier to start to figure out what to do about them.

If you've identified your triggers, you might try describing for yourself or here what exactly they trigger. What feelings, sensations, memories?

I've identified many of my main triggers:

•being in the car
•anything near the front of my neck
•sharp noises (like whistling)
•anyone coming up behind me
•things flashing in my peripheral vision
•certain songs
•being tickled
•being physically constrained
•witnessing certain kinds of violence
•someone relentlessly coming at me (even just verbally)

Some of the feelings, sensations, and memories they trigger include rage, terror, panic (heartbeat goes up, rapid shallow breathing), irritability, confusion, sadness, and a "freeze" reaction.

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« Reply #16 on: July 19, 2010, 03:30:46 PM »

Quote from LOAnnie
Quote
I find the definition of "internal triggers" (indicated in the post quoted below) confusing.  It seems more logical to me that a racing heart, or anger, or fear are the result of being triggered, not the trigger itself.

Wouldn't an "internal trigger" be more like a bad memory that then results in a racing heart or anger or fear?

[Note: I wrote the first two paragraphs below before I read justhere's post--wow, we seem to have a lot in common around this issue. Justhere, have you tried any breathing exercises? I started doing them when I began practicing yoga. I found them very, very, very challenging at first, and then I got the hang of them, and they actually cured my breathing issue (though I still cannot handle anyone touching my neck; necklaces are not a problem so I guess I should say "anyBODY" near the front of my neck). Same as you--getting someone away from my neck feels life or death as well, though I have no actual memory to link to the feeling, just a general association (sexual abuse I experienced as a 7-9 year old).]

The difficulty of teasing out what causes what is indeed how I meant by the chicken-and-egg comment, relating to my own experience. Memories certainly seem like internal triggers, but they're not the only ones for me. I have, for example, a history of getting panicked as the result of feeling like I'm short of breath (from exercising). The physiological state (shortness of breath) actually came first, and then came the panic, followed by...more shortness of breath, etc. It's a feedback loop. I think I have an association with being short of breath and being deprived of breath...I'm not sure, seems to relate to my issues around my neck and there may have been some experiences that I don't remember well in which I had my breathing constricted. So for me, I have the physical state, which triggered a PTSD response, but not a lot of the memory (about this particular thing I have a fair bit of traumatic memory loss).

I'm not sure it's critical for me to know what comes first except that I learned to be mindful of my reaction when exercising and breathe more deliberately, which has pretty much eliminated that trigger for me. Yay yoga!

Which leads back to the main topic of what triggers are and maybe now into what we do about them?

Several strategies have been mentioned so far:
*avoidance (when possible and not disruptive to your life)
*delaying response long enough to let your higher thinking process kick in
*exercises (like the breathing ones I've used) that divert the triggered pattern

allergictodrama wrote (my emphasis):
Quote
I think it also makes sense to share triggers with people we care about and interact regularly with (at least the sane ones), since it can help them understand our reactions and, when possible, avoid triggering us unnecessarily (on the other hand, I'm a pretty strong believer that each of us is responsible for managing his/her own emotions, and reactions to them; a completely trigger-free environment, even among intimates, is probably not possible or even, perhaps, desirable)


*How do you cope with your triggers--what are your strategies?
*Do you talk about them with your loved ones?
*How do you balance avoiding triggers with creating a comfortable environment/relationship--which is probably not trigger free-with your loved ones?


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« Reply #17 on: July 19, 2010, 11:36:34 PM »

For me, a 'trigger' is anything that drops me out of my "normal" state of being/thinking. They can also change, depending on how stable I am at a given time.

*How do you cope with your triggers--what are your strategies?
Noticing them, identifying something as a trigger, not necessarily a fact.
*Do you talk about them with your loved ones?
Incessantly. But, yeah. We talk.
*How do you balance avoiding triggers with creating a comfortable environment/relationship--which is probably not trigger free-with your loved ones?
I don't ask my loved ones to avoid triggers. For one, it's impossible and not fair to them. For two, it's my own stuff in my head to deal with, not theirs.
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« Reply #18 on: July 20, 2010, 10:45:59 AM »


It does seem blackandwhite that we do have similar triggers concerned with someone or something touching our neck area as well as feeling that we can't breathe. I'm really sorry that SA was a part of your childhood/life and any feelings or even partial memories from that time must be painful and have a devastating effect on your (conscious/unconscious )psyche.

 It's not a big stretch to think that these feelings could have something to do with chocking or restriction of air to us in some way, maybe form smothering whether accidental or from the intent of another person. I wonder too if these kind of reactions can stem form something more psychological in nature and are just being displayed in the physical.  Like if we are mentally exhausted from dealing with a mother who is stiflingly and sucking everything out of our life, can we equate that emotional distress with being smothered physically? 
 
Reading what you posted about yoga, helped me to remember that I did do yoga back in my twenties and I don't remember having any trouble with the breathing exercises so now I'm trying to figure out just how long I've been dealing with this. Thank you for this suggestion as it might help keep my mind from wandering if I tried to practice my breathing with a yoga instructor directing my thoughts and actions like in a yoga class. This is the first time I've really thought about this and I haven't told any counselor nor do I talk about these kind of things to my family. 

I think though that if a person is having the kind of 'panic attacks' that are interpreted by that person to be a serious threat to their life, they must have originated from some event or experience that was very traumatic or perceived as life threatening to them. The confusion comes from there being no or little memory available but the feelings or panic and terror are just as raw and intense as if it was happening so I wonder if there's a way to get from the feelings to the memory? And could knowing the reason/cause stop the attacks?

justhere

 
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« Reply #19 on: August 15, 2010, 10:53:16 AM »

I am finding out quite quickly that being a stepparent to children of a bpd mother is quite triggering.

I had a not so hot childhood - went through emotional abuse of my own and some physical abuse as well.

I am, however, much better equipped for some reason in helping the children deal with their traumas in a more calm way (despite what my insides are doing to me) than dealing with my DH who may 'trigger' things in an argument with me.

I think part of the reason is that I can recognize the children's perspective and I can truly empathize with how they are feeling.  And in turn, the 'fight or flight' kicks in...but no 'flighting'.  The fight in me kicks in. HARD. And I do talk myself through it.  It's not that I want to 'fight' with the kids. Not at all. I want to fight with the person who is doing this to them.

But to me, 'Trigger' makes me think of a gun. You pull the trigger and an explosion happens.  BANG!  And for me, it is lightning fast - just like that.  An event happens, and immediately my stomach is in my throat, my heart palpitates, my sight is very focused and it feels like my insides are running as fast as they can.

I can talk myself through it - deep breaths, calm, stop. Think. Playback slowly. Take it in. Analyze. Breathe. Okay, what is the crux of this situation.

My latest 'trigger' is actually my partner at work.  I am realizing more and more every day that he has got to have some form of paranoid personality disorder or something. It's pretty bad.  As I am getting closer to work, I can feel my stomach in knots, the headache starts, the palms get sweaty as I begin to think about all the things that he is going to come up with today.  All the conspiracies that he is fabricating of the entire work location being out to get him.  I begin to think of ways I can use my 'flight' response - go for a walk across the compound, find someone - anyone - to have a convo with. 

I find myself using my 'flight' response more with him than the 'fight'.  But sometimes I'm feeling strong. And the fight in me kicks in. But thanks to validation techniques and other stuff, I can fight in a calm manner (even though my insides are racing). 

Not sure if I answered your question B&W.  wink

Marlo  xoxox
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