A trigger is an external or internal stimulus that activates us into an emotional flashback. This often occurs on a subliminal level outside the boundaries of normal consciousness, and is why recognizing flashbacks is both difficult but crucially important. If you live with PTSD, you may be fine for a while with no symptoms. Then something may provoke memories or emotions you might not expect.   Examples include:

                                              External Triggers




                                    Internal Triggers


                            Thoughts as Triggers



In extremely rejecting families, the child eventually comes to believe that even her normal needs, preferences, feelings and boundaries are dangerous imperfections – justifiable reasons for punishment and/or abandonment. In the worst case scenarios - where parents use children’s words as ammunition against them - the mere impulse to speak sometimes triggers intense feelings of panic. How could anything the child says not reveal his stupidity and worthlessness...not get him deeper into trouble and rejection? As ongoing neglect and abuse repetitively strengthen the critic, even the most innocuous, self-interested thought or musing can trigger a five alarm fire of intense emotional flashback. To maintain the illusive hope of someday winning parental approval, the child’s anxious striving escalates, and may even become a perfectionism that is truly obsessive/compulsive. (1)

are people, places, things, events, facial expressions, styles of communication, A certain smell, sound, or sight that reminds you of the event you experienced, the anniversary date of the event,  seeing or reading a news report about it, seeing a person related to the event, Bad dreams or nightmares  that remind us of our original abuse or abandonment in a way that launches us into reliving the painful feelings of those times; e.g., revisiting your parents or childhood home, seeing someone who resembles your childhood abuser, experiencing the anniversary of an especially traumatic event, or hearing someone use a parent’s shaming turn of phrase. When trauma has been severe or we are in an especially depleted state, resemblances can even be scant – perhaps all unknown men or authority figures trigger fear, or anyone noticing or looking at us triggers toxic shame.  

are usually initiated by the critic and involve thoughts and visualizations about endangerment or the need for perfection; e.g., visualizing someone being abusive, or worrying about not being perfect in executing some current or upcoming task. As recovery progresses, many survivors are shocked to discover that the majority of their flashbacks are triggered internally by the various internal programs of the inner critic.