When you’re struggling with a mental health condition or a substance use disorder (or both), you’re dealing with a relatively fragile and highly influential psyche.
The overwhelming effects of mental illness and addiction can leave a person feeling drained and exhausted, especially if they’re actively attempting to recover from one or both conditions. As a result, these individuals might find themselves easily influenced by their vulnerability.
Triggers are one of the most common ways people experience setbacks in recovery; they can elicit a strong emotional or behavioral response that typically isn’t positive or productive. While there are plenty of triggers that can cause one to regress in their substance use or mental health progress, one of the most significant triggers is that of a traumatic event.
In this article, we’re going to discuss the different ways that trauma can act as a trigger in our lives, for both mental health and substance use issues.
What is trauma?
Trauma is a disturbing or distressing event (singular or recurring) that impacts our mental, physical, emotional and spiritual well-being. It’s often characterized by the long-lasting effects it has on a person’s well-being and functioning and can occur in many different ways.
The most common traumas include sexual or otherwise physical abuse, domestic violence, natural disasters, terminal illness, accidents, and parental abuse (neglect, physical, verbal or emotional abuse).
Trauma can affect people in a variety of ways, including:
- Re-living the trauma of the event
- Avoidance or dissociative behaviors
- Paranoia or hyper-sensitivity
- Dramatic emotional and mood changes
- Altering a person’s thoughts and beliefs about themselves, others and the world
- Trust, vulnerability and intimacy issues
The ways listed above can also be tied into trauma as a trigger for those suffering from either mental health or substance use disorders.
What is a trigger?
A trigger (in a psychological context) is an occurrence, situation, person or other stimulus that elicits a strong behavioral or emotional response in an individual. The person might also experience sudden or intense anxiety, fear, distress, sadness, anger, or heart palpitations.
Triggers can occur internally (thoughts, memories, physical sensations) or externally (sights, sounds, circumstances), varying from person to person based on their unique experiences.
For example, a combat veteran who has PTSD from a war zone might be triggered by loud noises like fireworks, while someone who’s been in a car accident might not be able to sit in a car for months due to how triggering the situation is.
There are many different circumstances that lead a person to develop triggers and multiple ways in which those triggers can manifest. One of the most significant triggers people with mental health or substance use disorders might experience is trauma.
Trauma trigger response
Trauma can be a trigger in and of itself due to how severe of an experience it can be. It generally always impacts us significantly in some way, and going through such an event while already struggling with a mental health or substance use disorder can be even more extreme.
When trauma acts as a trigger, it can cause a person to:
- Have intense emotional responses that may or may not be proportionate to the situation
- Physical reactions (sweating, dizziness, rapid breathing, shaking)
- Flashbacks and intrusive memories
- Avoidance or numbing tendencies
- Self-harming behaviors or suicidal ideations
It’s important to remember that trauma impacts people differently, and even if you or your loved one don’t “check off every box” on the symptom list, it doesn’t mean you don’t need help.
Begin your healing today
If you’ve experienced a trauma in your life, whether in childhood, adolescence or adulthood, and you’ve recognized that you still need to heal from part (or all) of the event, reach out to us.
Here at Silvermist Recovery, we understand that trauma is neither a minor experience nor an isolated event, which is why recovering with us is thorough from your very first day and evaluation.
In order to best supper you, we want to fully understand where you came from, where you’re at, how you got here and how we can help you get to a better “there.” Our experienced medical staff is not only full of compassion and kindness for our clients, but they’re passionate about helping you achieve a long-lasting recovery.
Trauma is not a minor experience, and when left unaddressed, can continue to harm you as an adult for years or even decades into the future. We’re here to prevent that from happening or help you heal from your traumas once and for all (if they’re already affecting you negatively).
Call us today to take the first step.