What trauma survivors want people to know

Please read the following before we begin: Please keep in mind that this blog is strictly for informational purposes and does not constitute medical or legal advice, medical services, clinical advice, or any other type of professional assistance. If you have a medical problem, you should see your doctor or health care provider right away.

Trauma has a long-term effect on people. It alters their perception of relationships, people, and the world. As humans, we all have some sort of trigger that causes us to react, but how we react is entirely up to the individual who is feeling them. Not everyone has the same reaction to the same incident. Some people are calm, while others might get rather upset or angry. This is not to say that our feelings about something we dislike are wrong and should not be felt, or that they do not matter; they do. But what matters is how we respond to it.

How do you know when someone has been triggered?

What exactly does “trigger” mean?

Before I begin, let me define the term “Trigger.” Triggers are sensory reminders that stir up unpleasant memories in the person who experiences trauma. These can include sounds, smells, or images from the traumatic event.

For example, while we may enjoy the scent of apple spice cinnamon during the holidays, someone who has experienced trauma may associate that scent with something unpleasant that has profoundly traumatized them. Even if we think the smell is wonderful, those memories trigger emotions that they had forgotten about until that smell triggered them.

What are common types of traumas:

Here are a few:

  1. Verbally and emotionally abused
  2. Physically or sexually abused
  3. Being neglected comes in many forms-Emotional & Physical neglect.
  4. Natural Disasters or other catastrophic events, such as a war, or similar to 9/11.
  5. Domestic Abuse or violence: seeing this as a child can cause childhood trauma.
  6. Seeing someone die or seriously harmed
  7. A high-stress environment
  8. Educational Trauma caused by Teachers or other school officials
  9. Medical Trauma caused by doctors
  10. Authority Trauma by figures who represent the public, such as Police Officers, etc.

What are some signs that tell their past trauma has been triggered?

  1. They react strongly to something we may regard as “insignificant” or we think it’s no big deal.
  2. They cannot maintain eye contact. They keep their gaze averted because they are uncomfortable or want to get away.
  3. They look for ways to comfort themselves (for example Drinking, Overeating, Body Harm, Hair Pulling, and overly obsessing about their hobbies, such as video games &, etc.).
  4. They become anxious and overly worried and want to get somewhere to hide and feel safe.
  5. They become emotionally shut off, or dissociate.
  6. They let everything go, and don’t take care of their needs or the needs of those around them who depend on them; even the area where they live.
  7. They stop talking to the person who triggered them, or they stop going to the place that triggered them, even if you didn’t purposely trigger them.
  8. They stay away from physical interaction and avoid confrontations and conflicts. When their trauma is triggered, they find it difficult to engage in activities that do not make them feel comfortable or safe. So, they become anxious and may have a hard time breathing; so, they avoid those people and areas that remind them.

How to help the person with their traumas

During an episode, you should take certain approaches. Because it is important how you approach them and how they react to your approach. To truly help someone, you must first understand what a trigger is, what triggered them, and why they were triggered. You may not understand their trauma or feelings. You should, however, allow them to express their emotions in a reasonable and open manner.

What they don’t want people to say or do when they are “triggered”.

  1. “It’s not that big of a deal
  2. “Why are you overreacting”
  3. “Stop being a big baby”
  4. “People have it worse than you”.
  5. “It’s not always about you”
  6. “I know how you feel”
    When someone is suffering an emotional trigger, it is not the time to say, “I understand how you feel.” This is because no two people experience trauma in the same way, and we all respond differently to it. We shouldn’t say “I understand how you feel” even though we can empathize because we can’t be sure how they feel unless we are them. Once the trigger has subsided, it’s preferable to talk about your experiences with similar trauma.
  7. “Stop worrying so much”
  8. “Breathe” Even though breathing is vital, it is not the time to say it when someone is in the midst of a crisis; it is ideal to mention it after they have calmed down.
  9. You have to do this….” “Have you tried……?” It is not the time to attempt to resolve the individual’s crisis. It’s best to wait till they’re calm before doing this.
  10. “It’s all in your head” is something you should NEVER say at any time to anyone triggered.
  11. “That’s on you” is a means of making them feel that their feelings are their fault and that how they feel doesn’t matter.
  12. “Get Over It” is similar to the above, but more direct Sometimes traumas are impossible to overcome unless the emotions are released; if you tell them to get over it, they will do the opposite and pull the emotion back within themselves. They will feel like they’re bothering others with their emotions. It has the opposite effect of helping.
  13. Don’t roll your eyes, this is a nonverbal expression of annoyance that is interpreted as an indication that no one wants to hear about their problems, which leads them to withdraw or find other ways to soothe them until the emotion is gone.
  14. Don’t walk away. Walking away means that if you see them in despair and them needing someone to hold or hug them, so they can feel safe and secure, they are unimportant; it makes them feel what they are feeling is unimportant, and they are a burden. This demonstrates to them that they are correct in their feelings because no one cares because no one wants to hear them. As a result, they withdraw and avoid dealing with the emotions that have arisen as a result of their trauma.

This does not oblige you to stay if they become abusive as a result of the trigger (name-calling or any other verbal abuse and even physical abuse). You have the choice to leave. I’m talking about not wanting to deal with it and not caring, and abandoning them to wallow in their sorrow is the polar opposite of helping them. They would perceive this as a message that they must conceal their anguish, causing most individuals to disassociate themselves from their suffering in order for the feeling to go away; not healing.

How can one heal from their traumas?

One can heal by recognizing their triggers.

What triggers you is pointing you in the right direction for healing. Take a step back when anything in the present moment triggers you, deal with whatever has triggered you, and then respond carefully to the situation in front of you. Until you are healed, everything will have the potential to trigger you. Past trauma that has not been resolved can often be found lurking beneath the surface, showing itself in various facets of your life. Those unresolved feelings from your past won’t go away; they’ll need to be processed and released.

I’d like to thank my long-time friend Tiffany for her assistance in compiling this list.

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