Trauma Triggers & Common Symptoms

Memories can Fade, but Triggers can bring them back with a Vengeance


Trauma triggers are the specific stimuli that bring back the memories and feelings of a traumatic experience. These triggers can cause a range of physical and emotional reactions, such as panic attacks, flashbacks, or avoidance behaviors. Understanding trauma triggers is essential for trauma survivors, their loved ones, and mental health professionals who work with them.

What are Trauma Triggers?

Trauma triggers are external or internal stimuli that remind a person of a traumatic event. These stimuli can be anything, such as sights, sounds, smells, tastes, touch, or even thoughts or emotions. Trauma survivors may experience triggers differently based on their unique experiences, and triggers may vary in intensity and frequency over time.

How do Trauma Triggers Work?

When a trauma trigger activates, it activates the amygdala, the part of the brain that regulates emotions and the fight-or-flight response. The amygdala signals the hypothalamus and the pituitary gland, which triggers the release of stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol. These hormones can cause physical symptoms such as increased heart rate, sweating, and rapid breathing, as well as emotional symptoms such as fear, anxiety, and anger.

Types of Trauma Triggers

Trauma triggers can be divided into three types: external, internal, and relational.

External triggers are sensory stimuli that come from the environment, such as sights, sounds, smells, or tactile sensations.

Internal triggers are internal experiences, such as thoughts, emotions, physical sensations, or memories.

Relational triggers are interpersonal experiences that remind a person of a traumatic relationship or event, such as being in a similar situation or interacting with someone who reminds them of the perpetrator.

Common Symptoms of Trauma Triggers

Trauma triggers can cause a range of symptoms, including physical, emotional, cognitive, and behavioral reactions. Some common symptoms include:

  • Panic attacks
  • Flashbacks or intrusive memories
  • Avoidance behaviors
  • Hypervigilance or heightened arousal
  • Disassociation or feeling disconnected from reality
  • Anxiety or depression
  • Irritability or anger
  • Shame or guilt

Coping Strategies for Trauma Triggers

There are several coping strategies that can help trauma survivors manage their triggers effectively. These strategies include:

  • Self-care practices such as mindfulness, exercise, and relaxation techniques
  • Creating a safety plan or a list of coping strategies
  • Identifying and avoiding triggers when possible
  • Seeking support from loved ones or support groups
  • Engaging in trauma-focused therapy

Seeking Professional Help for Trauma Triggers

If trauma triggers are causing significant distress or impairing daily functioning, it may be necessary to seek professional help. A trauma informed health professional can provide a diagnosis, assess the severity of symptoms, and recommend a personalized treatment plan. Treatment options may include therapy, medication, or a combination of both.


Trauma triggers can be challenging to manage, but with the right strategies and support, it is possible to live a fulfilling life after trauma. By understanding the essential facts of trauma triggers, we can better support ourselves and our loved ones in the healing process. Remember, seeking help is a sign of strength, not weakness.