Overcoming Trauma Triggers: Coping with Flashbacks and Nightmares

Benjamin Bonetti Therapy Online Coaching

Trauma is a complex issue that affects people in different ways. One of the most challenging aspects of trauma is dealing with triggers – situations, people, or things that remind us of the traumatic event and cause us to relive the experience.

Trauma triggers can cause intense emotions, physical sensations, and psychological distress. Coping with triggers is a critical part of trauma recovery, and there are many strategies you can use to manage them.

In this article, we will explore the nature of trauma triggers and how they affect individuals who have experienced trauma. We will also examine the different techniques that can help people cope with triggers, such as grounding exercises, mindfulness, and cognitive-behavioural therapy.

What are trauma triggers?

Trauma triggers are external or internal stimuli that remind us of the traumatic event we experienced. They can be anything from a sound, smell, or image to a person, place, or situation. For example, a veteran who has experienced combat may be triggered by the sound of fireworks, while the sight of a particular object or a certain location may trigger a survivor of sexual assault.

When a person is triggered, they may experience intense emotions, physical sensations, and psychological distress that can last for days or even weeks.

Some of the most common symptoms of trauma triggers include:

  • Flashbacks: Vivid and intrusive memories of the traumatic event that can feel like you are reliving the experience.
  • Nightmares: Disturbing dreams that can be very realistic and leave you feeling frightened and upset.
  • Hypervigilance: Feeling constantly on guard and alert for potential threats or danger.
  • Avoidance: Avoiding people, places, or things that remind you of the traumatic event.
  • Numbing: Feeling emotionally disconnected or detached from others.
  • Anxiety: Feeling worried or fearful, experiencing panic attacks or other anxiety symptoms.

Coping with trauma triggers

Coping with trauma triggers can be challenging, but it is an essential part of trauma recovery. Here are some strategies that can help: 

Grounding exercises

Grounding exercises are techniques that help you stay connected to the present moment and your surroundings. They can be helpful when you feel overwhelmed by a trigger and need to regain a sense of safety and control. Examples of grounding exercises include deep breathing, mindfulness meditation, and using your senses to focus on your surroundings.


Mindfulness is a practice that involves paying attention to the present moment without judgment. It can help you develop awareness of your thoughts and emotions and learn to manage them more effectively. Mindfulness techniques include meditation, body scanning, and mindful breathing. 

Cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT)

CBT is a type of talk therapy that helps people identify and change negative thought patterns and behaviours. It can be an effective treatment for trauma-related conditions like PTSD. CBT can help you develop coping skills and strategies to manage trauma triggers.

Exposure therapy

Exposure therapy is a type of CBT that involves gradually exposing yourself to trauma triggers in a safe and controlled environment. Over time, this can help desensitise you to the triggers and reduce their impact on your life.


Self-care is essential for managing trauma triggers. This can include things like getting enough sleep, eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, and engaging in activities you enjoy.

In conclusion, coping with trauma triggers is an essential part of trauma recovery. While it can be challenging, there are many techniques and strategies that can help. If you are struggling with trauma triggers, it is essential to seek support from a qualified mental health professional that can provide you with the resources and tools you need to manage them effectively.

Are you feeling overwhelmed, anxious, or stuck in life? Therapy can be an incredibly helpful tool for processing emotions, gaining clarity, and creating meaningful change. Working with a therapist can provide a safe and supportive space to explore your thoughts and feelings, while also developing coping skills and strategies to manage life's challenges. Don't let fear or stigma prevent you from seeking the support you deserve.

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