The perception that many people have about PTSD triggers is that of the car backfiring and a service member hitting the ground to take cover. Although this is certainly possible in certain situations where the startle response is intense, this is not, however, the only manifestation of a trigger.
Triggers can be rather sneaky and not readily recognizable. The stress of a trigger can be immediate, but it can also be cumulative. Exposure to a trigger without awareness of it can lead to irritability that seems to descend on you without warning. Irritability then starts to lead into issues with patience and relationships. Lack of patience can lead to outbursts of anger, physical violence, and a myriad of physical manifestations that lead to poor health.
Imagine consistent re-exposure to a trigger that you don't know is a trigger for you. It can lead to some major emotional, physical, and mental health issues. It can and will escalate if not carefully monitored and attended.
I'm a firm believer that we are not meant to live our lives in suffering for the experiences we've had. Ten years ago I had a different viewpoint because I couldn't see my way through the forest of PTSD, but now I know what healing is and I know how it works. It works through awareness, growth, education, and consistent practice. It does not come through patience and time, like I had been instructed for so many years. Stress does not go away because we take "a little time off" either. Tools for releasing stress have to be developed and practiced.
Triggers that are not identified can be terribly controlling. This is why I encourage those with chronic stress and/or PTSD to pay attention. Keep a journal if you have to. There are patterns to behavior. Pay attention to your patterns, the clues to healing are inside. I found connecting the dots to be a vitally important part of recovery process. There is "peace of mind" in taking charge of your own healing and taking the necessary steps to learn from your own responses.
As always, the support of qualified medical and mental health professionals is something that should also be sought out to help you through the process. I speak from my experiences of recovery and offer insight as I see it from the mind of someone who has experienced TBI and PTSD firsthand.
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