To answer this question, lets first define a psychological trigger.
A trigger is an activated traumatic memory due to your present environment via one or more of your five senses, sight, sound, touch, taste and smell. A trigger will result in a symptomatic or behavioral response.
To fully understand the difference between trigger and stressor, please read Stressor vs. Trigger (recommended reading).
Many sufferers and supporters view triggers negatively, as they provoke a negative action, so avoidance is often the solution--a natural human response. When you look closer at that natural response, what you're doing is instinctively creating a negative from a negative. It is far from healthy to avoid things that are not dangerous but which merely make us uncomfortable, psychologically or physically. Before you know it you're a recluse, avoiding people, places and life itself.
If this is you, no doubt life has gotten progressively worse; avoidance and hiding away is not living life, and most likely perpetuating depressive moods.
The answer is simpler than you think. It's called desensitization and is done via "in vivo exposure" technique. This phrase a fancy expression for "doing," literally exposing yourself to a trigger to desensitize your response from alarm to realism. Don't confuse this with realistically unsafe or dangerous situations. Another method, called "Imaginary Exposure," tackles actual unsafe situations by imagination only.
Any and every trigger you overcome reduces your symptomatic susceptibility. Put simply, you recover with every trigger you remove from your life.
Will you overcome every trigger? Not necessarily. Some may, some may not--yet every PTSD sufferer can reduce their triggers from many, to few, thus improving your overall quality of life.
Recovering triggers is an empowering process. The first trigger you tackle may be daunting, may make you extremely symptomatic with prolonged symptoms, yet as you knock away each barrier, you learn your strengths, your ability to fight fear and prove to yourself that you can overcome. This empowerment will help within other areas of your recovery.
Tackling triggers is a process that can be used prior to trauma therapy itself, building self-esteem and confidence to enter trauma therapy with significant self-skills, motivation and experience of a can-do attitude. PTSD's entire foundation is built upon fear, and demonstrating to yourself you can beat fear prior to trauma therapy is a win-win for you.
- Compile a list of your triggers. What specifically triggers you?
- Categorize your triggers as realistic or unrealistic. You may want outside opinions on this.
- Devise a simple plan for exposure, starting gradually, building up to extreme.
- Review your cognitive biases based on your immediate thoughts and reactions to the trigger, and have counter-statements prepared to confirm the unrealistic aspect of the trigger.
- Put your plan into action, using your cognitive counter statements to confirm the unrealistic response to the trigger.
- Constantly review, measure, adjust and continue until you have desensitized yourself to the trigger and cognitively realigned your mental association from negative to neutral or positive.
Do you do something different? If so, tell us how you've used your triggers to help your recovery.