My Partner Triggers My Trauma

My Partner Triggers My Trauma

Understanding Trauma Triggers and Approaches for Treatment at Purpose

Trauma can affect your well-being, but it can also interfere with intimate relationships. Since we are all human, we all have the potential to trigger each other or misstep from time to time. However, for those who have experienced a traumatic event, triggers are often intense or more frequent.

For example, someone who was sexually abused or who experienced repeated verbal assaults in past relationships may find it hard to feel safe with others. Or, they might notice an extreme physical or emotional reaction when met with traumatic memories or triggers.

Of course, those are just a few examples of traumatic events and how symptoms might manifest. If this sounds like you, or if you’ve ever thought, “My partner triggers my trauma – what can I do?” Rest assured, you have found the right resource, and it is possible to get to a better place.

Our blog post will cover trauma triggers, the nervous system, how to cope when a partner triggers your trauma, and how Purpose Healing Center can support trauma recovery with evidence-based programs of treatment. 

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Trauma Triggers

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and Complex PTSD can manifest as severe reactions to trauma triggers that affect your daily life, alongside other symptoms. For example, trouble sleeping, depression, anxiety, self-destructive behavior, and social isolation.

Complex PTSD (C-PTSD) can have particularly strong effects on romantic partnerships and other relationships. On top of other PTSD symptoms, C-PTSD includes emotional dysregulation, negative self-beliefs, and difficulties in interpersonal relationships.

Another difference in C-PTSD is how it develops. C-PTSD stems from prolonged trauma. For example, ongoing sexual abuse, emotional abuse, or another long-term traumatic situation. Many survivors of childhood trauma would meet the criteria for C-PTSD.

Not everyone who has experienced trauma will develop PTSD or C-PTSD. However, past trauma can affect you whether or not you have a diagnosable disorder. If that is the case, treatment in the form of therapy or an intensive therapy program can help.

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The Nervous System and Trauma

What happens in the body when you feel triggered? Most people experience physical sensations, which may or may not pair with certain thoughts and behaviors.

When you experience a trigger and feel traumatized, your nervous system becomes dysregulated. As a result, it may be challenging to think clearly or make decisions. You may feel nervous, irritable, high-alert, or experience fight or flight-like sensations. Some people will experience increased heart rate, shaking, or rapid breathing.

It can be helpful to memorize and gain awareness of what your trigger response feels like. If you know that you feel irritable, nauseated, have a racing heart, and don’t feel mindful or present during trauma triggers, you can identify, “I feel triggered right now,” and use coping strategies.

What Should I Do When My Partner Triggers My Trauma?

Use Self-Care Practices

Getting to know your own triggers and gaining recognition of what a trauma response feels like for you is a critical first step. Once you can identify what your trauma responses feel like, you can learn to step back, stay in the present moment, and navigate the trauma trigger. Here are some things you can do.

Use Self-Care Practices

Trauma triggers are taxing on the body and mind. When you’re feeling triggered, practice self-care and focus on feeling safe.

If you’re experiencing an active trigger, self-care may include tools like positive self-talk or giving yourself a hug. Saying “I am safe,” taking time to relax or unwind, or doing something you enjoy can be helpful.

Outside of active triggers, it can be advantageous to prioritize self-care in your daily life, too. For example, eating regular meals and keeping a steady sleep schedule.

Apply Coping Skills

Have a toolkit of coping skills ready for when triggers or intense emotions arise. Here are some examples:

  • Breathing exercises: Deep breathing regulates the nervous system. Taking steady, deep breaths through your nose or using breathing exercises like box breathing can be beneficial when you experience a trauma response.
  • Mindfulness exercises: Mindful breathing is one way to practice mindfulness, but there are other ways, too. For example, the 5-4-3-2-1 exercise or guided mindfulness meditations.
  • Physical activity: Walking outdoors, intense movements (e.g., shaking your arms by your side), and moving your body in other ways can be regulating.
  • Art: Creative hobbies are great for self-soothing or emotional expression.
  • Talking to someone: Turning to your support system is a valuable skill for those experiencing trauma responses and emotional distress.

Everyone is different, and it can take time to find what helps you most. The mental health professionals at Purpose Healing Center can help you develop coping strategies that work for you.

Communicate When You Feel Calm

In a romantic partnership, it is important that you communicate openly. That way, the person with the traumatized partner can better understand their partner’s behavior, emotions, and reactions.

It’s best to talk about trauma responses and triggers when you both feel calm. That way, you can discuss ways to navigate triggers (e.g., “I might tell you that I need some space and take alone time; it isn’t about you) when your mind feels clear rather than during an active trigger.

It can be valuable to create a safety plan for when your own emotions or triggers feel like too much. This could include going to a quiet area, having a non-verbal signal to give your partner to let them know that you’re having a hard time and need to take the aforementioned space, or something else.  

Seek Professional Help

Seeking professional help matters for people with PTSD, C-PTSD, or those who find that trauma affects their quality of life. Multiple therapies are evidence-based modes of trauma treatment. Outpatient therapy programs and inpatient therapy programs can both be beneficial, depending on your unique needs. 

What’s the Best Approach to Treating Trauma Triggers When a Partner Triggers Your Trauma?

Involve Pertner in Your Treatment

Seeking therapy or more formal trauma treatment programs for yourself is crucial and can help you manage triggers. When a partner triggers your trauma regularly, or when past traumas or trauma triggers regularly impact your relationship. Regardless of who your partner is, however, it can be helpful to involve them in your treatment or healing journey.

That way, they’ll understand what you’re going through, and you can work together. Co-regulation and self-regulation both matter. Remember that healing trauma takes time and is rarely linear. Professional support can guide you through it.

A comprehensive treatment program is ideal for addressing trauma, mental disorders, and substance abuse. If your symptoms affect your daily life, you live with a diagnosable condition, or you have dual diagnosis concerns, it is a sign that a treatment program may be the right option for you.

Confidential Trauma Mental Health Assessment

What Should I Know About Trauma and Dual Diagnosis Disorders?

In addition to relationship problems, it is common for people with trauma disorders like PTSD and C-PTSD to have one or more co-occurring disorders. Statistics indicate that 46.4% of people with lifetime PTSD also fulfill the diagnostic criteria for a substance use disorder of some kind.

For example, people with PTSD are more likely to develop alcohol use disorder (AUD). Drug addiction is also more likely. Often, but not always, these conditions co-occur with other concerns, like a mood or anxiety disorder.

When someone has a substance use disorder and one or more additional mental disorders, it is called “dual diagnosis.” Purpose Healing Center offers dual diagnosis treatment in all of our levels of care.

Our Comprehensive Treatment Programs Can Help You Overcome Past Trauma

Individual Therapy Sessions

Purpose Healing Center offers comprehensive treatment programs for substance abuse and mental health concerns. We address addiction and mental health from a whole-person perspective, going beyond surface-level symptoms.

Our programs use multiple types of therapy alongside other activities and treatments to help you achieve the most optimal treatment outcomes.

Individual Therapy Sessions

Individual therapy sessions focus on you, your symptoms, your feelings, and your story. In individual therapy sessions, you’ll work with a therapist one-on-one. This provider will get to know you well as an individual, and what you say during a session will stay 100% confidential.

You might work on setting boundaries, self-awareness, self-esteem, or other goals during individual therapy sessions for trauma. A therapist might roleplay, ask questions, help you reprocess traumatic memories, or walk you through new coping skills. 

While you get to decide what and how much you share with your therapist, individual therapy is an excellent place to share details you might not want to share elsewhere (e.g., in group settings). You can express your fears about trauma triggers and what they mean for your relationship or discuss anything else that’s on your mind.

Group Therapy Sessions

Largely, group therapy for trauma focuses on building coping skills in a group setting. For example, a therapist might guide the group through how to mindfully respond to a trigger in a dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) group.

In groups, you and other participants can also share experiences if desired, which can be comforting. Note that group therapy is not the same as a support group; the difference is that group therapy is led by a licensed provider, whereas support groups can be peer-led.

Family Therapy Sessions

Family therapy sessions can be helpful for some trauma survivors. It can also be helpful for people facing substance abuse and other mental health concerns.

In family therapy sessions, a licensed mental health provider will walk you and members of your family through expressing emotions, communicating more effectively, or meeting other goals.

A family therapist can also provide education on various conditions and concerns so that your family members can learn how to best support you.

Couples Therapy Sessions

Couples Therapy Sessions

While individual therapy is important for healing from past trauma, couples therapy can be integral when trauma triggers affect your relationship. That way, you and your partner can work to understand each other and navigate triggers collectively as a unit.

For our clients at our residential programs, we offer couples therapy via Zoom or in-person appointments during family therapy and sessions with loved ones. That way, you and your romantic partner can get couples therapy, even if they’re not close to our treatment center.

Psychiatry and Medication Management

In some cases, combined medication and therapy is a favorable approach to trauma treatment. We offer medication management services for clients who benefit from or may benefit from combined therapy and medication.   

Therapeutic Modalities for Trauma Healing

In individual, couples, group, and family therapy, a diverse set of therapeutic modalities can be used. For example, psychoeducation can provide therapy participants with education on post-traumatic stress disorder. Even if you understand PTSD, your partner or family might not fully grasp how it affects you, so psychoeducation in a family or couple’s therapy setting can be helpful.

Similarly, treatments generally conducted one-on-one, like cognitive processing therapy (CPT) and eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) therapy, can help relieve the trauma symptoms and triggers you experience as an individual.

Other therapies used for trauma include but aren’t limited to prolonged exposure therapy, dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), and trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).

Purpose Healing Center’s mental health professionals use a diverse set of evidence-based therapies and treatments in our programs. This allows for well-rounded treatment that produces the best possible outcomes. 

Contemplating Trauma Treatment: Next Steps

You’re considering treatment for trauma. What do you do now? Call us to verify your insurance coverage for treatment at Purpose Healing Center or fill out the insurance verification form on our website to find out if we accept your health insurance plan. Our staff members are here to help discuss payment options with you if needed.

Next, you will complete a free intake assessment with one of our staff members, which will help us get to know you and your treatment needs. At that point, you can work with our staff to explore which level of care or program is right for you.

Purpose Healing Center offers a full continuum of care so that clients with all levels of symptom severity can get the help they need. For example, if your symptoms don’t interfere with daily life activities and you need to continue fulfilling responsibilities like work or school, an outpatient program is likely the right option.

We have two locations: Scottsdale and Phoenix, AZ. You can book a tour of our facilities, commitment-free, if you’d like to see what we have to offer in person before pursuing treatment. Purpose Healing Center offers transportation services to and from our treatment centers in Arizona.

Get Help With Proven Trauma Treatment at Purpose

Trauma Treatment at Purpose

Purpose Healing Center can help you rebuild and rejuvenate your life without the effects of trauma holding you back. To learn more about our programs, schedule a tour, or ask questions about Purpose Healing Center, call our admissions line today.

All calls are kept strictly confidential, so please reach out today to get accredited options to support a brighter tomorrow!

Up To 100% of Rehab Costs Covered By Insurance

FAQs on Trauma Triggers and Treatment

Is it normal to be triggered by your partner?

It is normal to get triggered by partners, even in a healthy relationship. First, unless you have shared your triggers with romantic partners, they may not know what your triggers are. Talking with your partner, practicing self-care, and seeking professional help for trauma can support both your well-being and interpersonal relationships.

What happens when someone triggers your trauma?

We all have unique trauma responses. Some people get anxious when someone triggers their trauma; others get irritable, feel dizzy, experience a rapid heartbeat, or feel nauseated. Getting to know your warning signs or the way you react to triggers personally is one way to help yourself navigate trauma triggers.

Can you be with someone who caused you trauma?

While every relationship is unique, you deserve healthy and supportive relationships. Something to look out for if you are asking this question is trauma bonding.

You may have heard of the term “trauma bonding,” but you might not know what it means.

Trauma bonding does not refer to bonding with other people over shared traumatic experiences; instead, trauma bonding is when a perpetrator and victim develop a deep emotional bond.

Trauma bonding can make it harder for victims to leave, and it can be a very confusing experience.

How do I stop being triggered by my partner?

Identifying the first signs that you feel triggered, learning a set of coping strategies (e.g., deep breathing) that work for you, and working together with your partner are three big things you can do to reduce or better navigate trauma triggers and responses.

Setting healthy boundaries can also be beneficial. While it can be difficult to set boundaries if you aren’t used to doing so, a therapist, psychologist, social worker, or counselor can help.

Some people who have experienced trauma don’t know their own boundaries yet. You might’ve grown up in an environment where boundaries weren’t respected. This is another reason it can be beneficial to seek professional help; mental health providers can help you identify what you need or want your boundaries to be.