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PTSD Symptoms and Triggers - What You Need to Know

PTSD Symptoms and Triggers - What You Need to Know

As a country with its fair share of experiences in natural calamities, Filipinos are familiar with post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD. PTSD is a psychiatric condition that happens to people who have witnessed or experienced some type of traumatic event. The traumatic event can range from a natural disaster, a tragic accident, or an incident of attack. But fully understanding this condition requires a deeper knowledge of PTSD symptoms and triggers.

The Causes of PTSD

Before delving deeper into PTSD symptoms and triggers, let’s first deepen our knowledge of the possible causes. As mentioned, a person may experience PTSD after he or she witnessed or experienced a traumatic event. Generally, the event made the person feel frightened, stressed, or distressed. The events that might cause PTSD are:

  • Torture
  • Serious accidents
  • War
  • Sexual or physical assault
  • Experiences in childbirth; one good example is losing a child
  • Abuse; like what happens in a domestic or childhood abuse
  • Death of a loved one
  • Traumatic events at work or home
  • Serious medical condition, like being confined in the ICU

Please note that there’s still no definite explanation as to why some people experience PTSD while others don’t. Some experts say that PTSD happens as a part of a survival mechanism. For instance, a vivid flashback will give better details about the trauma which will prepare the person more should the same traumatic event happen again. Other studies show that PTSD may be linked to an increase in the level of the stress hormone, adrenaline.

While there’s still no definite scientific explanation, there are some risk factors that make people more vulnerable to PTSD.

Risk Factors

Since PTSD symptoms and triggers are highly connected to the risk factors, we must discuss them, too. Generally, people of all ages who suffered from a traumatic event are at risk, but the following factors raise that risk:

  • Being a war veteran, as they have been exposed to large-scale, violent conflict.
  • Gender; according to experts, women are more likely to experience PTSD than men.
  • Knowing someone who experienced trauma may also predispose a person to have PTSD.
  • Lack of social support. The presence support network can tone down the effects of stress. This will make people less vulnerable to PTSD.
  • Substance abuse may also raise the risk as it impedes a person’s ability to cope with a traumatic event.
  • Genetics may also play a role, as people with a family history of depression tend to be more susceptible to PTSD.

PTSD Symptoms and Triggers

PTSD symptoms and triggers vary from person to person. There are four categories of PTSD symptoms.

Intrusive Thoughts

One of the common PTSD symptoms and triggers happen when there are intrusive thoughts. Some experts call it “re-experiencing” since the symptoms make the person relive the traumatic event. Intrusive thoughts can come in the form of:

  • Vivid flashbacks;
  • Memories
  • Dreams or nightmares

Sometimes, there’s no flashback, nightmare, or memory, but the person is still triggered by something that reminds them of the trauma.

Avoiding Reminders

Another major symptom of PTSD is trying to avoid remembering the trauma. Some experts believe that “avoidance” is related to “emotional numbing.” Emotional numbing happens when a person tries not to feel anything at all. The signs include:

  • Not wanting to talk about what happened.
  • Avoiding things that are connected to the tragic event. They also try to avoid anything that brings bad memories back. These include people, objects, places, and activities.
  • Refusal to think about the trauma.
  • Isolation and withdrawal.

Negative Thoughts and Feelings

PTSD symptoms and triggers sometimes make the person develop negative thoughts and feelings. Under this category, the signs are:

  • Persistent and distorted belief about oneself, like “I’m not good enough,” and “I’m bad.”
  • Persistent and distorted belief about others, like “No one can be trusted.”
  • Feelings of hopelessness
  • Feelings of detachment
  • Finding it hard to feel positive emotions
  • Finding it hard to form close relationships
  • Apathy or lack of interest in things and activities previously enjoyed.
  • The occurrence of memory problems, especially difficulty in remembering some aspects of the traumatic happening

Arousal and Reactivity Symptoms

The fourth category of PTSD symptoms can be described as “feeling on edge.” A person with these symptoms experience:

  • Angry outbursts
  • Irritability
  • Difficulty in concentrating or focusing
  • Difficulty in sleeping
  • Self-destructive or reckless behavior

How to Manage PTSD Symptoms and Triggers

Due to the wide range of PTSD symptoms and triggers, managing them should be a top priority. The main treatment involves taking some medications, psychotherapy, or both. Note that it is very important for a person with PTSD to consult a mental health doctor.

While in treatment, you can help curb down PTSD symptoms and triggers by doing the following:

  • Try to avoid feelings of helplessness by reclaiming your sense of power. One way to do it is to give your time and talent to those who are in need. Examples of things to do are volunteering or donating blood.
  • Exercise. To manage PTSD symptoms and triggers, engage in physical workouts. They make you more resilient to stress. Additionally, working out releases endorphins that stabilize your mood.
  • Find or accept support from loved ones. With PTSD, it will help a lot to connect to others. Don’t hesitate to ask for or accept love and support from your family and friends. If you can, talk to them about your PTSD symptoms and triggers. This will help you cope up with PTSD.
  • Support treatment through a healthier lifestyle. Aside from exercising, don’t forget to take care of your diet and nutrition and get plenty of sleep. As much as possible, avoid the intake of substances like alcohol. Additionally, try to reduce or quit smoking.

To manage PTSD symptoms and triggers, you must also reduce unnecessary stress by:

  • Setting realistic goals
  • Breaking down huge goals into smaller, more doable tasks
  • Prioritizing and delegating tasks if possible
  • Seeking out comforting things, places, and people

PTSD symptoms and triggers will have a huge effect on a person’s life. If you or someone you know have PTSD remember that medical help is very important. Having a support network will also go a long way, so don’t hesitate to reach out to family and friends.

Learn more about Mental Health here.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.


What Is Posttraumatic Stress Disorder?
Accessed June 24, 2020

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
Accessed June 24, 2020

Risk Factors for Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Accessed June 24, 2020

Causes-Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
Accessed June 24, 2020

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
Accessed June 24, 2020

PTSD: National Center for PTSD
Accessed June 24, 2020

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Written by Lorraine Bunag, R.N. Updated Jun 23
Medically reviewed by Mike-Kenneth Go Doratan, M.D.