What Does It Feel Like to Be Triggered While Living with DID?
The amount of trauma that each person with dissociative identity disorder (DID) has undergone varies, but the end result is the same. Having DID means needing to live with the possibility of being triggered on a frequent basis, but what does this mean? What does it look like when a person with DID is triggered?
Understanding DID Triggers
Although I have now been diagnosed with DID, I went most of my life not knowing anything about my underlying mental illnesses or the impact of my trauma. On a personal level, I was aware that certain people, places, sounds, and even aromas could create anxiety within me. However, I did not understand where these feelings were coming from, or more importantly, why they were happening.
It wasn’t until I began exploring my past trauma in a therapy setting that I started to understand why I would feel a certain way as a result of a trigger (people, places, sounds, aromas). Now that I can pinpoint which triggers result in anxiety within me, I can manage the panic I feel and regain control more quickly than ever before.
Learning to Cope with DID Triggers
Triggers are a very real part of living with DID, but they don’t have to become overbearing and life-ruining. By identifying specific triggers and understanding why the body reacts a certain way to them, you can regain control of your everyday life, regardless of your diagnosis.
When I start to feel triggered, anxiety creeps in. My heart starts to race, and my palms become sweaty. This is how I know that my body is reacting to what it perceives to be a threat as a result of past trauma.
Once the physical factors set in, my mind begins to backtrack as well. On occasion, I’ll have flashbacks of traumatic incidents, which can be paralyzing. If I allow the full reaction to the trigger to set in, I may suffer a full-blown panic attack, which can last anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes.
However, I’ve learned that it doesn’t have to be this way. Through therapy, medication and insight from mental health professionals, I’ve learned that the quicker you regain control of the situation, the better your chances are at avoiding a panic attack.
Identifying and Treating DID Triggers
For me, the key to preventing myself from spiraling out of control as a result of a trigger has always been to stay grounded. This means identifying my physical reactions to a trigger as soon as they appear.
If I delay in identifying the physical reactions, I’ve found that there is still hope in the form of deep breathing and meditation. These tools have helped me successfully avoid flashbacks and full-blown panic attacks in the past.
Finally, medication has also benefited me in ways that I never could have imagined. With guidance from my psychiatrist and DID therapist, I have learned how to use medication quickly and efficiently when all else has failed.
Predicting triggers can be difficult, meaning it’s best to have a plan of action in place for when they pop up. Living with DID comes with its fair share of challenges, but treatment for DID symptoms exists, and it can make a world of difference on your personal healing journey.
What DID triggers do you experience? How do you deal with them? Share your thoughts in the comments.