4 Triggers of Trauma

4 Triggers of Trauma

By Lakeview Health
Lakeview Health
Author Alexis Leehan
Alexis Leehan

Lexie Leehan, CRC is the Alumni and Aftercare Supervisor for Lakeview Health. As an alumna of the program, she truly understands what our patients... read more

Published: June 7, 2021

4 Trauma Triggers

And how you can work through them.

Unfortunately, trauma and addiction often go hand in hand. While studies on the correlation between these two topics are still relatively new, we see that it is not uncommon for patients to turn to drugs or alcohol in an attempt to cope with the negative thoughts and feelings associated with past traumas.

A 2019 survey of our patients indicated that over 50% experienced symptoms of trauma prior to treatment but only 12% reported these symptoms after treatment. This is a positive indicator that appropriate therapies and healthy coping mechanisms can make a huge impact on the lives of those experiencing trauma symptoms.

Some of the common triggers for trauma are outlined below with a few tips for overcoming and managing these symptoms. The first three triggers on this list are no surprise, it’s common during recovery to focus on changing your people, places, and things. Some of the reasoning behind this is to break old habits to pave the way for new, healthy ones.

  1. People – Other people can act as trauma triggers. One of the challenges here is that certain characteristics can even be triggers. An example would be someone wearing a piece of clothing that reminds you of what someone was wearing during a traumatic incident.
  2. Places – Physically being in a location, or an area similar to one, where a distressing event took place can be a trauma trigger. The sights, sounds, and smells of these locations can all be very overwhelming for someone who has had a previous traumatic experience in that location.
  3. Things – This one may feel vague but that’s because a variety of items or sensory experiences can act as triggers depending on a person’s past. For some, this could be bad weather reminding them of a natural disaster that they might have experienced. For others, this might be certain sounds or smells that cause negative or painful memories to flood back to them.
  4. Feelings – Sometimes called flare-ups, feelings of physical pain or discomfort caused by an injury relating to a trauma can be triggering. An example could be feeling pain from an injury caused long ago by say a dog bite or car accident. This physical pain can serve as a difficult reminder of past traumas.

Tips for Managing Triggers

  1. Breathe – Breathing exercises like diaphragmatic and box breathing are great ways of helping those suffering from triggers to refocus their energy and help slow their breathing. This is particularly important as triggers can cause fight or flight reactions which typically cause increases in blood pressure and breathing rates.
  2. Ground Yourself – Grounding is a tactic used to bring your focus to the present so that you are not replaying past events mentally. There are several different grounding tactics out there that you can try in order to find what works best for you. Some people like to count objects in a room like the number of yellow items that you can see while others prefer to focus on sensations like the things they hear or how the chair under them feels.
  3. Exercise – Stress from trauma can cause an increase in adrenaline levels which in turn lead to an increase in your heart and breathing rate. Exercise, like a brisk walk, jog, and yoga, can be a helpful outlet for these feelings and extra energy.
  4. Recreational Therapy – Recreational therapy and hobbies are an excellent way to help manage triggers. These hobbies can be relaxing, while serving as a creative outlet and offering a sense of purpose. At Lakeview, we offer surf, golf, and equine therapy to help patients gain confidence and learn from these new experiences.

Identifying past traumas and triggers is an important part of the recovery process. Many times our patients are struggling with unidentified past traumas. At Lakeview, our team is able to work with patients to identify and develop healthy coping skills to better manage these past trauma triggers though.

Treatment at Lakeview Health

If you or a loved one is struggling with a substance use disorder, contact Lakeview Health today at 866.704.7692. Our team is ready to help with the admissions process and begin addiction treatment.