Guest Author - Kelli Deister
A trigger is something that causes the survivor of child abuse to remember what they have endured. It brings back certain memories of abuse. Triggers can cause anxiety and other symptoms in the survivor, especially for those with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder..
An example of a trigger would be for the child that was abused by an alcoholic parent. They are possibly triggered by the smell of one particular drink, such as beer. If the survivor was abused when their parent was drinking, the smell of the alcohol may trigger the survivor, even as an adult. Another example of a trigger might be something visual, such as the way a person stands. Perhaps their abuser stood in a particular fashion when abusing the child. If the survivor of child abuse, as an adult, sees someone standing in that same fashion, they could be triggered and remember particular events.
Triggers can also cause flashbacks. A flashback occurs when the survivor of child abuse is triggered by something and they remember the abuse. The memories of the incidents then wreak havoc with the survivorís mind. They might feel as though they are back in the abusive situation, while having the flashbacks.
What should a survivor do when a trigger brings up the memories of the abuse? One way in which the survivor can process the trigger and calm down, would be to practice what is called grounding. Grounding helps the survivor to focus on the present, such as the chair they are sitting in. The survivor can walk themselves through the process of coming back to the present. They can touch the chair and tell themselves what it feels like, or look at the color of the chair they are sitting in at that very moment. They can look out the window and focus on the weather at that particular moment. Grounding is all about staying in the present and not focusing on the past abuse. This really helps the survivor to not stay in the flashback. When the survivor is triggered, it is important for them to try to focus on the here and now and not their past.
Another way to process through the triggers would be to call a trusted person and talk it through with them. The person the survivor talks to can help them to stay in the present and talk about what they are feeling at that moment. Most important, the survivor can work through their process in therapy with a trusted therapist. If the survivor is seeing a therapist, they can tell the doctor about what they are experiencing and the triggers that are occurring. The therapist can then work with the survivor and help them to overcome the triggers.
Triggers can occur for years after enduring the abuse; however, the survivor can overcome them and leads a normal life.