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Triggers & Subsequent Reactions: A Partner's Point of View

A trauma rigger is a psychological stimulus that prompts recall of a previous traumatic experience. A trauma trigger may also be called a trauma stimulus, a trauma stressor, or a trauma reminder. The process of connecting a traumatic experience to a trauma trigger is called a Traumatic Coupling.

As a kid and young adult, I have experienced triggers. After my first car accident I was too nervous and anxious to drive. After getting lost the first time, I was scared to go to unknown parts of the world. These may be triggers that we all go through at one point or another in our normal, everyday lives, yet the triggers of a sexual assault survivor are more intense. In my wife Tamara’s case, she gets panic attacks when she hears a song from the band “Boston.” Can anyone guess why? If you said that during her abuse, her abuser would listen to “Boston” albums, you would be correct. Tamara also has heart palpitations when a show her abuser used to watch is on TV. These specific things trigger her PTSD as well. PTSD is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. PTSD is a disorder that develops in people who have experienced a shocking, scary, or dangerous event.

In order to help others who have certain triggers as I do my wife, you have to first understand what a trigger is. Some survivors of childhood sexual abuse have reported triggers as diverse as the smell of coffee, cigarette smoke, and angry gestures. The first, and most important, thing to do is to never, under any circumstance, tell that person that they are exaggerating or “doing it” for attention. NEVER call anyone a “drama queen” for opening up and telling their story or reacting a certain way to negative stimuli. Instead, the person needs to be removed from the situation that is causing them their distress as quickly as possible and get them to some place safe. Reassuring them that they are safe is paramount to helping someone going through a trigger. Get them to breathe. This will help restore the body’s equilibrium. PTSD sufferers are taught to control and slow their breathing.

These are some techniques you can use to help someone through triggers and PTSD. I will leave you with a Haiku poem from an anonymous poet:

Her trusting heart fell

Her whole world has gone to Hell

She was under his spell

Thank you for reading!!

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