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What Happens When PTSD is Triggered?

Depressed teenager with her face in her hands

If you’re a military veteran or someone who survived a trauma, the sound of breaking glass or firecrackers may result in fear, anxiety, a fast heart rate, or other symptoms. Many symptoms may subside naturally, but others that happen months or years after the event may be signs of PTSD.

What is PTSD?

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a disorder that develops in some people who have experienced a shocking, scary, or dangerous event. It is natural to feel afraid during and after a traumatic situation. Fear triggers many split-second changes in the body to help defend against danger or to avoid it. This “fight-or-flight” response is a normal response as protection from harm. Most people recover following trauma, but someone who continues with problems could have PTSD.

Related Conditions

Common related conditions:

  • Acute stress disorder happens as a reaction to a traumatic episode, just like PTSD does, and the symptoms are comparable but occur three days to one month following the event. If you have acute stress disorder, you may relive the trauma, suffer flashbacks or nightmares, or experience numbness or a sense of detachment from yourself.
  • Adjustment disorder happens in response to one or more stressful life events. The behavioral or emotional symptoms a person has in response to a stress trigger are normally more serious or more intense than what you would consider reasonable for the kind of event that took place.
  • Disinhibited social engagement disorder happens in kids who’ve survived difficult social neglect or poverty before two years of age. Like reactive attachment disorder, it could happen when children lack the simple emotional requirements for affection, comfort, or stimulation, or when caregivers are rotated (which may happen in a foster care environment) and it prevents them from creating healthy attachments.

Another related condition is reactive attachment disorder. This happens in children who’ve lived through acute social neglect or poverty during their early years of living. It can happen when kids don’t have access to the basic emotional requirements for comfort, stimulation, and affection, as observed in the case of children who’ve been diagnosed with disinhibited social engagement disorder. 

What Happens When PTSD is Triggered?

If you have PTSD, you’re not alone. Millions of others are in this same position. In fact, the U.S. National Institute of Mental Health estimates that nearly four percent of U.S. adults experience it in any given year. It’s a mental health condition that many people get following a traumatic event and can be triggered by anything – an object, a person, a place, or a sound. After PTSD has been triggered, you may experience one or more of the following:

  • Anger
  • Fear
  • Anxiety
  • Grief
  • Frustration
  • Intense memories
  • Loneliness
  • Feeling deserted
  • The sensation of losing control
  • A sense of vulnerability
  • Pain
  • A fast heart rate
  • Muscle tension

How to Cope With PTSD

People who suffer from PTSD and its consequences may find relief in a number of ways, such as medicine, psychotherapy, ketamine infusion, or self-help. But there are other ways to cope, including:

  • Progressively, mindfulness and meditation-based relaxation strategies have been known to help manage a variety of disorders. This includes mindfulness-based stress reduction, mindfulness-based cognitive therapy, and other similar approaches.
  • Calm your mind and re-establish focus through exercise or other physical activity. This could be as simple as walking, jogging, biking, swimming, or stretching exercises.
  • Certain types of essential oils can help relieve symptoms of PTSD, including aromatherapy with Lavender, sage, or peppermint.
  • Art therapy, led by trained specialists, is sometimes employed to help people with PTSD contextualize their emotions and memories.
  • Assume responsibility for a pet, but only one you can handle and which you’re most comfortable with.

Diagnosis and Treatment

PTSD and other mental health disorders can only be effectively diagnosed by a medical or mental health professional. This normally includes:

  • A physical exam to check on your overall health and whether there’s an underlying cause for PTSD symptoms. This may be achieved through blood tests, x-rays, and other diagnostic procedures.
  • A psychiatric evaluation which focuses on thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. Your healthcare provider will require a full accounting of personal or family history of mental illness, may ask to speak with family or friends, and ask you to complete a mental health questionnaire.

Treatment options may include ketamine infusions, an innovative new therapy for people suffering from mood disorders like PTSD.

Final Thoughts

If you suffer from PTSD, many of its symptoms are treatable with psychotherapy or ketamine. Ketamine was once used solely as an anesthetic, but doctors have discovered its therapeutic value in calming symptoms of mental illness, chronic pain, and other treatment-resistant disorders. Contact us today to learn more about this treatment option.

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