Stressor vs. Trigger - What Is A Trigger?


Thanks,I can relate to this.

My trigger is anything that is a form of animal abuse,a stressor would be seeing an animal in distress,which most of the time for me,leads to a flashback.

I think the difference between a stressor ,and a flashback is that a stressor is a precursor to a flashback.

As a child I was exposed to extreme cruelty to animals ,and it has been one of the most difficult things I have dealt with in my life.

I recently had a flashback,and I'm finding solice in this forum.
Thank you all so much,and I pray for all of you to feel better.


Anthony - this is brilliantly described by you. Thank you.

Having been through multiple traumas between ages 3 and 48 I know I have many triggers and many stressors and I have always known they were not the same, but now it is even more clear to me.

Also, the dissociation for me was not always a complete event. It was like being inside someone else's body who was doing things I wouldn't do.

But thank you again for the thread.


New Here
I have PTSD and a trigger for me is being held down. A stressor for me is seeing someone who looks similar to my rapist. I have recently been checking out or doing things I am unaware of. Is this caused by more stress than usual. Like going thru a divorce and being verbally, emotionally, mentally and psychological abuse from soon to be ex spouse. I mean I have done some bad things like hack into my husbands FB and create and identical one for his girlfriend, and blocked numbers from phones, apparently I have done some things I have no recollection of either, in the past! Even though it was noticed I was not given the help I needed or the support I needed. I also have Severe Panic Disorder and Social anxiety! Try living with all these things and then feeling like you the one totally at fault because your doing horrible things you can't remember. I also am lucky to have the PTSD dreams that freak me out as well. Any opinions!


DID makes is own internal sense. The witness/participant of similar events(child bride) will be the one who gets the flashbacks of those events.
Yes. Mercy, this is very true.

Do your little feel safe with your current therapist? Just recently, I had to type several things (from several points of view) then give them all to my therapist, but make sure he read the last page (which is the one who has the issue we needed to cover the most) first, before we even spoke. She didn't even want to be there, and we had to send the therapist out of the room to get a drink of water, so we could assure the little she was safe. She can't count, nor does she know colors, but the others pitched in and said them out loud and she got it.

Once you feel safe with your therapist, find out if they know how to do debriefing from cult training. If not. find out if they can find someone who can help you. It is going to take a number of session of intense one on one with each of your alters. If they want you to do inpatient for that, make sure it is a place that specializes is DID/MPD only. The others can just make it worse. I know there are only a few in the United States who do that. Not sure about the UK, or Asia, or Australia.

Good luck.


trigger for me is being held down.
I have managed to control my response to the point where I request my partner to release me if he is refusing to give up his hug. When I word it a certain way, he realises what I'm doing, and what he is doing, and releases me immediately.

Although sometimes he is a bit thick, and really doesn't listen to what I'm saying, and that's when I fight to stop myself lashing out physically, although I did recently, because my partner was having some fun by biting the soft underside of my arm whilst I was sitting on the side of the bed.

I had just had a night of nightmares, and was feeling particularly fragile, and the pain was pushing my boundaries, and when he didn't stop I snapped and slapped him on top of the head.

I felt really bad afterwards, and apologized to him.

A trigger for me, is being physically restrained which makes me feel panicky and want to lash out to break free, because my ex used to pin me down and rape me, and my father used to corner me, pin me down to the floor and beat me til I couldn't move.

My brother in law and I have a very bad history, and upon the knowledge that I would have to deal with him at a family dinner, the 3 days prior saw my appetite drop, feel really shaky and unable to sleep.
The dinner went without event, but I've been having nightmares for the past 3 days since then.

That, for me, is a stressor.

Don't trip

Anthony, interesting. I can make the distinctions, however my ability to clarify the distinction verbally or in my writing is not piece Meal while the stressor or trigger is occurring.

I think this is important to do so as not to generalize and over use the word in which I am guilty as charged. I do disagree however with regards to exposure therapy and perhaps you can clarify your position on this but I would not encourage a survivor I am working with to expose him or herself to their abuser or having anything to do with them directly or indirectly as the no contact rule is imperative to survivors ability to heal.

Exposure to places they went together lived, whatever can literally send a survivor into a state of cognitive dissonance and ruminating that can set her back weeks to months in recovery. Some survivors over time who become indifferent to the abuser can eventually be exposed again to places people etc but this is very rare.

The level of deception when dealing with a low empathy low conscience disorder brings a whole new meaning to abuse and what it means. I love these distinctions however and will keep this in mind with myself and my support.

Very informative forum! I'm learning much!


Exposure therapy is not about exposing a person to their abuser as you're citing. Some do that, but that is not the foundation of it. That location typically has little to do with the daily issues. A person can return to such a place later in their healing, but you wouldn't take someone who has done little work and recovery back to the location of their trauma, unless they specifically wanted to take that on themselves. People do this later in their lives, with time and space between the event, and find it very cathartic at those times, but they wouldn't expose themselves to danger, as such. They often still break-down doing so... but the healing rewards surpass the negativity of the fear they build prior to the return. Surpassing that fear that is 'causing' them issue is what exposure therapy is about.

A person who is abused and then recluses themselves in fear of their abuser finding them, who for example the abuser is in jail OR the person has moved across states (distance), then it is unrealistic that the person would come across their abuser by going out now. That is an irrational fear. Exposure therapy is about removing irrational fears, not rational fears. Rational fear can be reduced, but danger is danger. Irrational danger is just that, irrational and an encumbrance upon the persons daily life.

Don't trip


Agreed. Would you be surprised that some therapists DO encourage exposure of clients to places that the abuser and the survivor have inhabited ESPECIALLY when they live close to one another? I don't agree with this approach and thank GOD nor does my therapist. In her opinion, it's "Why ask you to go to a place you wouldn't normally go ANYWAY, or don't NEED to go for the benefit of MY ego?" Love her. I'm very very lucky.

The things that happen with survivors at the hands of some therapists is really harmful and tragic. The survivors I work with are so fragile and vulnerable when they are first out of the relationships, often having developed disorders of their own, or discovering they've had a disorder (other than PTSD), that they were not aware of prior to therapy, they are even more volatile. I'm not a professional and I've seen very strong reactions with Dissociation, PTSD triggers and suicidal ideation. I DO NOT and WILL Not handle those situations alone. I am NOT qualified to do that. What is very alarming though, Anthony, is that therapy is hard to come by, a good therapist even more so. So many survivors are uninsured or under insured, so sometimes, all they have left is forums like this, or blogs like mine, for support.

I know that what I say or do could harm someone. I think its beneficial to be upfront about what I can and cannot do.

I realize this is getting somewhat off topic, but I'm curious as to what your perceptions are about this with regards to the forum as you claim not to be a professional as well? I may learn from you.


Thank you for this very clear post, Anthony.

I read in the New York Times Science section about British research on PTSD using PET scans. They had two groups of people, those with PTSD and those without. They were shown the same video clips ( I don't know what they saw) for about ten minutes. The next day, the same people were shown short clips of what they had seen. In the group with PTSD, the PET scans showed that the amygdala lit up 45 seconds to a minute before the prefrontal cortex.

For me, it made a big difference to the way I thought about full body flashbacks and their aftermath. I had thought I was punishing myself on purpose or replaying an horrific incidents so that I wouldn't forget them. This new data means that the whole biochemical cascade, that is responding to a trigger, has already started before I am even aware of it. I am not guilty of inflicting pain or punishing myself. Sometimes, the flashback is preceded by a fast heart rate, sweating, fast breathing before the perception that I have been triggered has happened.

A trigger is a symptomatic reaction from one of the five senses (sight, sound, touch, taste and smell) based only upon a direct connection to an actual traumatic event experienced.


Exactly! So learning that I am not setting them off but something in my environment is settling them off is a great relief. I wasn't torturing myself on purpose.

Those triggers like repeated words, sounds, a belt left on the table, the quaker oatmeal man (Though now he has a smiling face and that's better) are recognized as threats and sometimes I get a very visual memory, sometimes a full body flash with back-pain, sounds, violence. Too numb to write more, sorry.