PTSD can cause acute symptoms in the moment. What are the triggers for a PTSD attack, and how can you deal with and avoid them?

Approximately 70 percent of Americans have experienced a traumatic event at some point in their lives.

Of this group, about 20 percent go on to develop post-traumatic stress disorder (also known as PTSD).

PTSD can be an incredibly debilitating disorder. Luckily, though, there are many steps you can take to manage it and keep it from running your life.

The first step is to learn what triggers PTSD attacks for you, specifically.

Read on to learn more about issues that may trigger a PTSD attack. You’ll also learn some techniques to help you avoid and manage your triggers better.

What Is PTSD?

PTSD is a psychiatric disorder that affects folks who experienced a traumatic event. Many soldiers suffer from PTSD when they return from war or combat.

Other people can develop PTSD, too, including folks who have any of the following situations:

  • Natural disasters
  • Acts of terror
  • Sexual assault
  • Physical or emotional abuse
  • A serious accident

Some people develop PTSD after indirect exposure to a particular incident, too.

For example, someone could develop PTSD after learning that a family member or close friend experienced a violent death or a severe accident. People like police officers, who are repeatedly exposed to graphic and traumatic situations, can also develop PTSD.

Signs of a PTSD Attack

A PTSD attack and the experience of PTSD symptoms can vary widely from person to person. Generally speaking, though, PTSD symptoms fall into one of these four categories:

Intrusive Thoughts

Intrusive thoughts can include involuntary and repeated memories of the traumatic event a person experienced. Distressing dreams are considered involuntary thoughts, too, as are flashbacks. Sometimes, flashbacks are so severe that people with PTSD are convinced they are re-living the traumatic event.

Avoiding Reminders

People who suffer from PTSD will often go to great lengths to avoid anything that reminds them of their trauma. They may avoid certain people, places, situations, or objects to avoid intrusive thoughts and memories. They may even abuse substances like alcohol to help them avoid thinking about the event.

Negative Thoughts

Negative thoughts are common among people with PTSD.

They may have negative thoughts about themselves. They might think that they’re bad people or that they deserve what happened to them for some reason.

They might have negative thoughts about others, too. They might think that no one is trustworthy, or they may have a hard time connecting to others and enjoying their company.

Arousal and Reactivity

People with PTSD often experience arousal and reactivity, too.

They may be irritable or angry, seemingly without reason. They might behave in a reckless or self-destructive way, too.

Many people with PTSD are startled easily or have difficulty falling asleep or relaxing.

Triggers of a PTSD Attack

In the same way that everyone experiences PTSD in a different way, everyone also has different things that trigger their PTSD symptoms. For some people, it might be loud noises. For others, it could be a particular smell.

It’s impossible to name all the potential PTSD triggers because everyone has such different experiences. The following are some of the most well-known triggers of PTSD attacks, though:


Often, loud sounds can trigger PTSD attacks. The sound of a fire alarm or a loud plane or helicopter could be a trigger for a veteran. For someone who grew up in an abusive household or was in an abusive relationship, the sounds of people yelling or crying could be triggering.


Smell and memory are strongly linked, and many people find that specific smells can trigger PTSD symptoms for them. The smell of a particular food could be triggering, as could the smell of fuel or even a particular brand of perfume or cologne.


Being around lots of people can often create feelings of anxiety and trigger PTSD attacks in those who have suffered trauma.

Being around a certain type of person could be triggering, too. For example, a woman who was sexually assaulted by a man may be triggered when they’re in close proximity to a man and don’t have an easy way out.


If you’re in a place that resembles a place where a traumatic event occurred, you might be triggered. This could be somewhere like a hospital or a friend or family member’s home.


Finding yourself in a circumstance similar to the circumstances of your particular trauma can be triggering as well. If you were injured in a car accident, you might start to experience PTSD symptoms when you get into a car or when you drive on a particular road, for example.

How to Manage PTSD

The key to managing PTSD in an effective way is to learn how to identify your triggers. Once you’ve identified them, you can work to avoid and cope with them in healthy ways.

The following are some helpful tips for folks who suffer from PTSD:

Work Backward

When you experience intrusive thoughts, feelings of aggression, or any other symptoms, work backward and try to figure out what triggered them. It can be helpful to write in a journal when you’re doing this.

Try Soothing Behaviors

Activities like meditation, journal writing, and deep breathing can be very helpful for people trying to cope with PTSD symptoms.

Whatever soothing behaviors you use, make sure they’re productive and not harmful (drinking alcohol, abusing drugs, self-harm, etc.).

Work with a Professional

It’s also important to work with a mental health professional. They will help you to identify triggers and figure out which soothing behaviors are most beneficial to you.

It can be hard to open up to someone about your situation. The sooner you do, though, the sooner you’ll start feeling better.

Get Help with PTSD Today

Are you struggling with PTSD? Are you tired of letting PTSD attacks run your life?

Now that you know more about common PTSD attack triggers and how to deal with them, it’s time to take control and learn to manage your condition in a more effective way.

One of the first steps you need to take when it comes to managing PTSD is to work with a qualified therapist.

If you live in or around the Beverly Hills area, contact us at Blair Wellness Group today to start working with a therapist who understands PTSD and can give you the resources you need to handle it.

We offer a variety of counseling services and offer extended hours to accommodate your schedule.

Our site provides a wealth of information about emotional and mental disorders. We also have information about PTSD Attack. Explore our website today to get an appointment with the best therapist Los Angeles to improve mental health and enjoy your life with the interpersonal, workplace, and social relationships.