Have you ever talked to your therapist about specific triggers...

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And why they are triggering?

So like I was in therapy this week and we were talking about different kinds of shame - I have general sense of shame and feeling bad that is very body focused but I also have shame specific to certain events.

But if I tell him it might not make sense and then I'll feel even more embarrassed.

One of them that was most powerful a while ago is eating a particular kind of yoghurt and I had a flashback (or intrusive image, never sure which) related to CSA and I then felt really bad in my body for ages and wanted to not be in my skin and I thought if I explained that it might help but then will he understand what that was about for me. Or certain kinds of touch. Or people being behind me.

The general sense of badness is about weight and I sometimes wonder if my eating disorder 'mindset' is stuck at a certain developmental point and I feel ashamed because of that (although I know the way being underweight functions is that you end up feeling too big for a range of reasons) but i find reminding myself that I don't have to do that anymore (remain a low weight) and that helps.

Sorry but basically have you ever told your therapist about graphic triggers and if so how did they react and how did you feel.


I figure most triggers are specific... or they wouldn't be triggers.

Telling concretes? Yeah, the most recent one I'd told one or two. As she makes hard shit easier and points out normal life pieces in it, which helps me contextualize the darnedest, and feel back human.

Parts are hard to tell - sexual trauma ain't the traumas I work through & need therapy on most so not applicable there, but the sense of all encompassing shame and how close physical and intimate things are are the same so do relate there.

People that need to know in my life so my PTSD doesn't wreck our work ditto, been told in much more detail for things they didn't know. Usually makes me emotional puddle for quite a bit after and earns me casual u hanging in there? suicide prevention checks by them lol.

It honestly isn't a big deal or something to judge on *for the therapists or equivalent qualified psych health support.*

It feels so big deal and cluster of emotions and dysreg galore ensures because it's trauma. Aka totally typical. And healable. :)


Not this T, but previous one yes. She then left that practice. My mind does not want to let go of that fact, connecting the two. I do hope to be able to discuss things more personal in the future. I am still building my relationship with this T.


Absolutely. And it has been really helpful for me. Couple of examples to illustrate:

One of my triggers is grey carpet. When I switched treatment providers, I got admitted to an inpatient trauma program program. But the hospital it was at? Had grey carpet.

So we did some exposure therapy to help me cope. And introduced some extras for when I was too unwell to cope with anything even remotely triggering (like having a towel on top of the carpet under my chair in the group room, and laying white sheets over the floor in my private room when I was having an episode - which would usually be removed as a 'trip hazard').

So I can cope with that trigger better when I'm well (exposure therapy), and have tools to help me when I'm not so well.

Second example: being touched on the back of my neck. For any reason. And I'd created several unhelpful safety behaviours to avoid people doing that.

I haven't exposure-therapy'ed my way out of that one completely. But talking about it did 2 important things. First, it meant that we could talk about stuff that related to it. Talking about the trigger, dipped my toe into other issues I hadn't realised I was avoiding in therapy.

Second? Talking about it being a trigger helped me identify "Oooooh, so that's why I do [enter all manner of strange behaviours to prevent people getting at the back of my neck]", and adjust some of those so my behaviour was a little more normal, and a little less obsessively hypervigilent about my neck!


Absolutely. And it has been really helpful for me.... So I can cope with that trigger better when I'm well (exposure therapy), and have tools to help me when I'm not so well.... Talking about it being a trigger helped me identify "Oooooh, so that's why I do [enter all manner of strange behaviours to prevent people getting at the back of my neck]", and adjust some of those so my behaviour was a little more normal, and a little less obsessively hypervigilant about my neck!

Thank you this is really helpful. I do a lot of avoidance to avoid coming into contact with triggers (so I can't eat certain foods because they remind me of things, and it isn't the food itself that was the problem it is because it reminds me of things).

But I don't know if it sounds completely mad or will make sense. He knows why I am there so if I say yoghurt has triggered flashbacks before will he understand *what it is probably a flashback of* or if I say certain colours (because of the colour of the walls) or the smell of beer or the sound of a can opening (being in bed and hearing the can opening or being crushed before someone got drunk).

I feel like talking about triggers might be a step closer to talking about what actually happened that I can't say.

I was in an ED day programme for a while and there was a situation before I knew yoghurt would trigger me where I had chosen it for a snack and had a flashback and because they have a rule about completing meals I thought I would have to finish the yoghurt but they did let me choose something else.


I do a lot of avoidance to avoid coming into contact with triggers
Remember that you can control the speed of your therapy, and that sometimes that actually makes the whole process even more helpful.

So, for example, say you have a trigger that your T doesn't know about at all. But, you know that it's a big deal - either because of the amount of times it comes up for you, or because of the specific event it's linked to.

You might decide to tell your T: I got triggered the other day by (example) the smell of talcum powder. And the flashbacks it caused left me totally dysfunctional for days.

Your T is potentially going to encourage you to expand on that: either to talk about what your flashback experience, dysfunction, and coping strategies were like, or to talk a bit more about why talcum powder is a trigger.

At that point? You can already be ready, and get in ahead. Oftentimes I finally manage to find the courage to flag an issue with my T that I know we need to talk about. So, after weeks of chewing my nails, I might end an appointment with my T by saying something like:

"I got really badly triggered by some talcum powder the other day, and I think we need to talk about that. But not today."

I can indicate that I might need weeks, or I can leave it open-ended.

I do that quite regularly with my T, because the moment I walk in the office I know I'm going to lose whatever courage I needed to talk about a specific issue, or I'm just gonna plain old dissociate, and the conversation won't happen at all.

Sometimes I write stuff down and hand it over (at the start or end of the appointment, depending on how difficult it is), and that's a strategy a whole lot of us use. So, you can flag an issue about a trigger with your T (a) without having to say the words out loud; and (b) telling them this is something we need to come back to, but I'm not ready yet.

It potentially would sound silly to someone who doesn't have the foggiest about mental health issues and treatment. But this won't be new territory for your T to deal with, and it certainly isn't unusual in the realms of us folks here in this forum.

Maybe think about paring down one of the issues you're thinking you would benefit from dealing with, and then plan out your strategy for how you might approach it with your T. Sometimes going in with "Let's just rip off the bandaid" is surprisingly successful. But other times, it just leads to a series of appointments where we just plain old avoid the big stuff:)


Thank you so much that is really helpful. So I could write them down email but set boundaries around what feels OK. And say I want him to know but don't want to talk about any events. I think I'm as ashamed of my response to the trigger as I am of the experience.

I worry a lot that I'll say it and he won't realise what it's linked to and then I'll feel even more ashamed.

If I said yoghurt triggered me and you knew I had a history of csa (sorry) might you get why that is so horrible?


Yep... but it still could have been other things. As in the yoghurt could have played many roles in your abuse... not just that some liquids look like others.

So it's still better to clarify.
Because the 'obvious' isn't always obvious. It makes sense in our heads because trauma. But to outside observers? No way to guess why are things - exactly - triggering. Still have to clarify the details.


One of my related triggers - not to childhood SA, but to adulthood rapes & DV, is / was alfredo sauce. And any kind of white sauces on pasta, tangled in other things. Lost my everloving mind just at the sight of it / had to have friends transport me out of the room pronto. Still don't remember huge chunks of days.

So to do exposure on it, just starting with 'white. On pasta. <mumble jumble> Take me off this planet. Now.' ... didn't really work.

Telling the T I have a torture involving rapes history in which I saw children murdered in front of me for the heck of it, and couldn't do a darn thing, except get raped more?

Whole another ballgame of understanding.


I'm so sorry that happened to you. So sorry.

Yes so the yoghurt reminded me of something horrible and it dripped (so I had a flashback) and now my mind seems to have associate it. Mint smells and flavours are for a different reason. The smell of dog biscuits just because he had a dog and walking the dog prededed other things. The smell of the cold because he would come from work outside and that would mean things.

Also triggers not to do with csa but to do with my dad like things being thrown and the smell of alcohol and spit. I have a flashback to our dog being scared of him and cowering when he was violent and threatening.

I am supposed to be working on shame and I am ashamed of the things the triggers remind me of and ashamed that I am triggered and ashamed that I had the experience and ashamed that it bothers me when it wasn't as bad as experiences others have had.


No trauma Olympics ;) Different things impact people differently.

What about work on shame as emotion, first?
Without relation to specific events and scenarios - much less trauma or associated - linking in with it.

But to get some distance, understanding of, and moving space / breathing room, for the shame emotion *itself.*

As sounds you are having difficulty with the emotion on its own, that could use more solid base - before you address anything else.


OK so if I spell it out and say 'feelings of shame are linked to my body and particular memories such as memories triggered by certain things - like certain smells e.g. mint or certain foods (eg I had a horrible flashback after eating a certain yoghurt once so now I avoid it) and certain types of touch which usually I avoid. I used to really struggle with my partner coming home after being out drinking with his friend and then smelling of cold alcohol but I do cope with that a lot better now. Then the more general sense of shame is partly my body feeling contaminated overall and partly the eating disorder guilt of having eaten too much and ashamed that I have visibly broken food rules by gaining weight. But the trigger to work on is the specific one because that's the one linked to like my biggest fears
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