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How to Deal with Trauma Triggers

How to Deal with Trauma Triggers

by Isabella Coronel
Published: Last Updated on

Overcoming Trauma Triggers Through Effective Treatment

Trauma triggers send the mind and body into a fight-or-flight state. They disrupt the nervous system, and if trauma survivors do not get help for their symptoms, it could lead to an array of negative physical and mental health-related consequences. For example, chronic pain, high blood pressure, insomnia, and new or worsening symptoms of anxiety or depression.

Not only is your trauma or fear response a common reaction, but it is one meant to protect you. The problem is when the body becomes so hypervigilant, which frequently occurs for those with post-traumatic stress disorder and other trauma disorders, that your body is in this strained state for a disproportionate amount of time. Treatment for trauma helps you exit fight or flight mode and live your life.

So, what should you know about how to deal with trauma triggers? This page will cover post-traumatic stress disorder, a common trauma disorder, and how treatment can help.

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About Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a widespread mental health condition currently said to impact about 4% of adults in the United States per year. However, not everyone who meets the criteria for the disorder gets a diagnosis, meaning that PTSD may be even more common than most expect.

While not every person who experiences trauma will develop PTSD, it can affect anyone who has experienced one or more traumatic events. Although PTSD symptoms can impact your life severely, managing a partner who triggers your trauma and getting to a place where they do not affect your life, physical health, or mental well-being as significantly as possible.

Many people who seek behavioral health services through programs at Catalina Behavioral Health find that they get to a place where PTSD symptoms no longer impede their daily life.

What are the Symptoms of PTSD?

Symptoms of PTSD

Having knowledge of the symptoms of PTSD can help you identify them in yourself or someone you know. That way, you or they can pursue treatment. Although emotional reactions and symptoms are most often mentioned in conversations about PTSD, physical symptoms can also occur.

If you notice that you experience emotional distress or any other signs of PTSD, Catalina Behavioral Health can help.

Categories of PTSD symptoms and how they might manifest include but aren’t limited to the following:

  • Intrusion: Intrusive thoughts, involuntary memories, distressing dreams, dissociation, or flashbacks of a traumatic event (which may feel so vivid the individual feels they’re reliving the traumatic experience or seeing it again).
  • Avoidance: Avoiding reminders of a traumatic event, which may include avoiding places, people, activities, objects, or situations associated with distressing memories. One may avoid thinking or talking about the traumatic event, but not always.
  • Alterations in cognition and mood: Trouble remembering important details of a traumatic event, negative thoughts, distorted beliefs about oneself or others (e.g., “I am bad” or “No one is trustworthy”), negative feelings, such as horror, anger, guilt or shame, decreased interest in activities one previously enjoyed, feeling detached or estranged from others, lack of positive emotions (e.g., happiness), or distorted thoughts surrounding the causes or consequences of a traumatic event, leading one to blame them self or others wrongly.
  • Alterations in arousal and reactivity: Irritability, angry outbursts, reckless or self-destructive behavior, hypervigilance (being overly suspicious or watchful of one’s surroundings), trouble sleeping or insomnia, problems concentrating, or being startled more easily. 

In addition to PTSD, trauma survivors are significantly more likely to experience substance abuse and other mental health concerns—for example, anxiety, depression, or dissociative disorders. Catalina Behavioral Health is a safe space for those healing from the effects of trauma and is equipped to treat all of the above.

Which Traumatic Events Cause PTSD?

Common causes of PTSD include but aren’t limited to war, sexual assault, domestic violence, traumatic events surrounding religion, an abusive relationship, natural disasters, illness, and the death of someone close to you. However, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), any traumatic event can lead to PTSD.

Some people have what is called complex PTSD (often called C-PTSD or complex trauma), which occurs when someone experiences chronic or continuous trauma. A common example of what could cause C-PTSD is childhood abuse, though any other ongoing traumatic experiences could lead to it.

Catalina offers both Complex PTSD inpatient and outpatient treatment options, as well as aftercare and alumni programs for our CPTSD clients.

Complex PTSD and addiction can also often occur simultaneously, and Catalina’s dual diagnosis programs offer effective approaches to treat both conditions at once.

Getting Treatment After a Traumatic Event

Getting Treatment After a Traumatic Event

Catalina Behavioral Health is equipped to treat trauma, PTSD, and C-PTSD caused by any traumatic event or experience. It is essential to get mental health services for trauma. Working with a qualified mental health provider in therapy can help you find sufficient ways to address trauma triggers when they surface in your day-to-day life.

Many forms of therapy and other treatments can be used to address trauma. Treatment offerings like our residential, partial hospitalization, and intensive outpatient programs allow clients to focus on healing and access a combination of treatments and supportive activities that lead to long-term positive outcomes, including multiple therapeutic modalities.

In every program or level of care we offer for trauma treatment, clients create a safety plan, develop new self-care habits, and work with mental health professionals to navigate intrusive memories, thoughts, negative emotions, and triggers.

Levels of Care at Catalina Behavioral Health

We know that no two clients are exactly alike. As a result, our mental health and substance abuse treatment center offers a full continuum of care and helps each client create an individualized treatment plan no matter what level of care they’re in.

Each level of care provided at Catalina Behavioral Health requires a distinct time commitment and has a unique purpose. If you aren’t sure which level of care is right for you at this time, our admissions staff can help.

Residential Treatment

Residential Treatment

Residential treatment is the most intensive type of mental health and addiction treatment. It is the highest level of care you’ll find at Catalina Behavioral Health or any other treatment center. During residential treatment for trauma or any other mental health concern, you are required to eat, sleep, and live at your treatment center for the duration of your program.

During the day, you’ll engage in a comprehensive set of treatment activities. Depending on your care plan, this may involve a combination of individual counseling, cognitive behavioural therapy, groups, medication management, life skills workshops, holistic treatments, and more. For most people, residential treatment lasts somewhere from 28 days to six months.

Partial Hospitalization

Partial hospitalization programs (PHP) are the second most intensive form of treatment. Rather than live at your treatment facility, PHP clients should generally expect to take part in treatment activities 6-8 hours per day, five days a week.

PHP is ideal for clients who are unable to attend residential treatment or need a less restrictive environment than residential treatment can provide but need more support than intensive outpatient.

Like residential treatment, PHP may involve a combination of individual counseling, group therapy, medication management, life skills workshops, holistic treatments, and other activities. 

Intensive Outpatient

Intensive outpatient programs (IOP) are one step below PHP. Like in PHP, you may work with professionals for a range of treatments, such as individual therapy, groups, medication management, life skills workshops, holistic treatments, and other activities in IOP.

However, you will spend fewer hours per week in treatment. IOP is an ideal option for those who must work, go to school, or care for their family while in treatment or who need less intensive care. It can also be used as a step-down form of care for those who have completed a residential or partial hospitalization program. 

Medical Detoxification

Medical Detox

Medical detoxification is for those who need help discontinuing the use of alcohol or any other drug. In medical detoxification, also called “detox,” clients get careful medical supervision and support while temporarily staying in a facility dedicated to making the process of getting off of drugs and alcohol safer and less distressing.

At times, a treatment team might prescribe medication to help reduce withdrawal symptoms. You may attend detox if you face symptoms of a substance use disorder in addition to trauma. Detox can be but is not always a precursor to another level of care, like PHP. 

Aftercare and Alumni Services

Those who have completed a treatment program often find that they benefit greatly from our aftercare and alumni services. This is largely because they allow you to continue to connect with a strong support system after treatment is over.

Catalina Behavioral Health offers a range of services for those who have completed treatment with us, including but not limited to support groups and sober social gatherings.

Evidence-Based Treatment Approaches to Trauma

Evidence-Based Treatment

Just like all trauma survivors have different trauma triggers and symptoms, the right treatment plan for one person often differs from that of another. You will work with your treatment team at Catalina Behavioral Health to develop a fully customized treatment plan in the levels of care or treatment programs we use to address trauma-related symptoms.

Treatment offerings in the programs at Catalina Behavioral Health include but aren’t limited to the following:

  • Holistic approaches (e.g., breathwork, guided meditation)
  • Eye movement reprocessing and desensitization (EMDR)
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
  • Cognitive processing therapy (CPT)
  • Dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT)
  • Recreation activities
  • Life skills workshops
  • Family therapy
  • Art therapy
  • Medication
  • Group Therapy

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The Value of Coping Skills for Trauma Triggers

A “trauma response” refers to trauma-related symptoms that occur when trauma survivors are met with reminders of past trauma, whether those are internal or external triggers. When faced with a triggering situation or reminders of traumatic events, a person may experience various forms of trauma symptoms, including but not limited to the following:

  • Physical symptoms, like sweating, shaking, or a rapid heartbeat
  • Distressing emotions (e.g., anger, fear, or guilt)
  • Trouble focusing or concentrating
  • Intrusive memories
  • Dissociation
  • Nightmares

The value of coping skills for trauma triggers is that they help trauma survivors alleviate these and other symptoms. Finding the coping skills that work for you can take time, but it is worth it. When you seek professional help for trauma, you can establish coping skills, build a support system, and create healthy patterns in your life. 

Coping Skill Examples

Coping Skill - Journaling

Our mental health professionals teach various coping skills to those who have experienced trauma and need help. When met with a potential trigger, it is helpful to have at least a few pre-planned ways to navigate it. For example, deep breathing, journaling, reaching out to trusted individuals you can confide in (e.g., loved ones, a therapist), and thought reframing. 

A trauma and PTSD treatment program like ours can help you become desensitized to trauma triggers so that they affect you less. That way, your mental and physical reactions will be less severe, and you will be in a better place to utilize the coping skills you have. 

Research shows us that healing from trauma is possible. No matter what your story is, it’s imperative that you do not give up on recovery. 

Get Support to Deal with Trauma Triggers Successfully

If you’re ready to get trauma-informed care that meets your needs, you’re in the right place. Catalina Behavioral Health is a mental health and substance abuse treatment center located in Tucson, Arizona and convenient to many of the surrounding suburbs and communities.

Our staff members are here to answer any questions you have about treatment or verify your health insurance coverage for free. To get in touch with Catalina Behavioral Health, make a confidential call to our compassionate Admissions team today!

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FAQs on Dealing with Trauma Triggers

How do you get out of trauma triggers?

There are a lot of skills that can help you move through trauma triggers. The specific skills that work for one person can differ from what works for another. Some examples include but aren’t limited to general self-care practices, positive self-talk, affirmations, breathing exercises and breathwork, confiding in a trusted person, validating your experiences, physical activity, and grounding exercises or relaxation strategies like progressive muscle relaxation.

Getting professional help for trauma is highly recommended, as it will help you desensitize yourself from triggers, navigate them, and stop past experiences from impacting the present moment long-term.

What do trauma triggers feel like?

Trauma triggers can present in different ways. Some people experience physical sensations (e.g., rapid heartbeat), whereas others experience primarily internal symptoms, like feeling overwhelmed, anxious, or angry.

Many people experience a combination of both physical and emotional discomfort when met with potential triggers or trauma memories. 

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