People who endure traumatic events can experience issues when something in their environment triggers distressing memories associated with the event and their connected thoughts and emotions to these memories. Triggers may set off a re-memory, or flashback, that transports the individual back to the event of the original trauma. 

What Are Triggers?

Personally formed through individualized experiences, triggers differ from person to person. They can cause someone to feel a slew of emotions such as overwhelming sadness, panic, anger, or anxiety.

They may be predictable, for example, a violent film may trigger a war veteran to experience a flashback. They may also be less predictable, such as a specific word said during a negative and emotionally charged family dispute may continue to provoke negative and angry emotions years after the occurrence of the conflict.

Triggers can also be so impactful in that they prompt increases in symptoms related to substance use.

The Effect of Triggers

Triggers have the power to create a flow of thoughts, such as feelings of betrayal, abandonment, helplessness, impending danger, or a need for revenge. The emotions associated with the trigger may reflect the experience itself, which leads to feelings of anger, shame, fear, or sadness.

The final effect of these reactions may lead to an episode related to stress reduction in which the individual acts out to reduce the impact that re-living the experience is having on them psychologically. For example, if a member of a family calls another ailing family member a “burden,” which leads to an extreme familial fight and falling out, that word may trigger the other family members to lash out when they hear it again.

The word itself can trigger a waterfall of emotions which activate anger and motivate actions, such as aggression. While this reaction may be out of proportion dependent upon the situation and the context of the said word, the word itself triggered an emotional response and a subsequent reaction. 

Feeling Triggered and Looking for Help?

It can be difficult to manage emotions related to past traumatic experiences, particularly in the beginning stages of recovery. Furthermore, when battling an addiction to drugs or alcohol, triggers may promote substance use due to the persistent want to not face the negative psychological effects of past traumas.

Maintaining internal balance requires identifying triggers and addressing their effects. Successfully identifying triggers can help foster a sense of self-control and increase levels of social functioning.

It’s possible to avoid or change situations in which triggers may be present to improve our experience of, and response to, the internal flow of negative thoughts and feelings.

At Alta Loma Transformational Living, you will meet knowledgeable, compassionate professionals that understand addiction in all its forms.  Alta Loma uses an integrative and holistic approach to treat addiction and mental health issues. No treatment is one-size-fits-all, where you will have a team of experts prepared to create your customized treatment plan.  

We offer care for your mind, body, and spirit, so that you can heal from the inside out and look forward to a lifetime of sobriety and wellness. If you are ready to take the first step in your recovery, please call us at 866-457-3843.


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You understand your needs best. If you have found yourself at a crossroads in your treatment and feel like your program options don’t fully understand you or aspects of your recovery, it’s time to contact the specialists at Alta Loma. We will help you craft the ideal care plan and secure the support you need, quickly, to avoid unnecessary problems. At Alta Loma, that’s our mission — to provide each individual with optimum care for the wellbeing they deserve.