When My Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Gets Triggered

November 2, 2015 Dan Hays

There are many things that can trigger my posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Over the years, I have learned to adapt pretty well to living with posttraumatic stress disorder. But certain situations or settings can trigger, which means to cause an onset of, the anxiety of my PTSD, taking me back to a time when I wasn’t safe and my life was in danger. I will become hypervigilant, begin to dissociate, and feel extreme anxiety. I’ve learned to watch for those situations, and to find effective coping mechanisms that reduce my anxiety when my PTSD gets triggered.

What Triggers My Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

  • A lot of noise -- I love my family, but when they gather for family holidays, they can make a lot of noise, which creates a lot of PTSD stress for me. Sometimes I want to visit with them, but with multiple conversations going on in a room – loudly – it just becomes too much for me (Noise Sensitivity: When The World Is Too Loud).
  • A crowded setting -- If I feel like there are too many people surrounding me, I start to feel closed in or trapped. When that happens, I don’t feel safe, and begin looking for the exits. I finally figured out that was why I had difficulty going to church – a lot of people talking at the same time, being friendly, but in small spaces.
  • Unsafe people -- One person can walk in the room, who doesn’t feel safe to me, and I will quickly get hypervigilant and my threat detectors go off. I have pretty good radar, and if someone doesn’t feel safe to me – there’s something behind it.

What I Do When My PTSD Gets Triggered

  • I give myself space. With my family, I didn’t realize what was going on for several years, but I typically find myself out on the back porch, taking short breaks from the noise inside the house. It allows me to calm down and re-balance myself, and then I can rejoin the family holiday and be more relaxed.
  • I leave the situation. If a place just feels too crowded – like a fellowship hall after church packed with people, I’m not going to have an enjoyable time, so I just have to leave. I get away, and that feeling of compression and density dissipates, allowing me to calm down.
  • I re-establish safety. What makes me feel safe might be getting in the car with no one around me. If I have really been triggered, I may just need to go home and sit quietly for a while, petting a cat until my heart rate goes down (10 Things To Do For A Panic Attack).

PTSD Triggered By An Unknown

When PTSD gets triggered, feelings similar to the ones during and after original trauma occur. How can you control your PTSD triggers? Read this.I was talking the other day with a friend whose PTSD was getting triggered and causing him great anxiety and panic. I noticed that each time his PTSD got triggered, he had felt really good, and then began to feel really anxious. I pointed that out to him, because it has happened so many times for me. When I was growing up, whenever I would feel good about myself, something dysfunctional or dangerous would happen (How To Recover From Emotional Trauma of Domestic Abuse). I learned to connect feeling good with “bad things about to happen.” That’s just one example of occurrences I’ve identified that can trigger my PTSD symptoms.

Over the years, I have identified some really odd things that trigger me, and have learned to be aware they are coming:

  • My birthday is a massive trigger – a violent incident happened on my 17th birthday, so I learned to just minimize my birthday, to lessen my stress.
  • I can be triggered easily during the holidays, because a lot of violence happened then.
  • Late at night is a trigger, because the violence all happened then, so I’ve learned to be alert to that potential.

As I have prepared for and adapted to the triggers that might arise in my world, it hasn’t completely removed them, but it has sure made them easier to deal with.

Photo by Justin Snow @ Flickr. Creative Commons.

Dan is a PTSD survivor, and author of Healing The Writer: A Personal Account of Overcoming PTSD and Freedom’s Just Another Word. You can connect with Dan on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+, and at his website

APA Reference
Hays, D. (2015, November 2). When My Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Gets Triggered, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 24 from

Author: Dan Hays

November, 3 2015 at 10:15 pm

I hope you continue in your efforts of recovery. Healing takes time. Thanks for your article.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

November, 3 2015 at 10:50 pm

You're welcome for the article, John. Yes, I'm continuing my healing journey!

Not giving
November, 3 2015 at 10:43 am

THANK YOU for writing this article. That's all I can say... Thank you, thank you, thank you. You've helped me by sharing your story and I'm forever grateful for it.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

November, 3 2015 at 10:44 am

You're very welcome. I'm glad what I shared helped you!

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