PTSD and Fireworks

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Written by: Rebecca McCoy

Rebecca McCoy lives in Florida with her husband who has military related PTSD, two children, and extended family. She writes about her experiences as a supportive spouse and shares her unique perspective and wants to help others who are living with PTSD. She shares her story at and on her Facebook page: A Spouses Story PTSD.

Has anyone noticed that many with #PTSD are having additional symptoms or increased symptoms right now? Now, do you know why?

For those of you in the United States… What’s coming? Ah… the 4th of July! (There are certain anniversaries or such going on in other countries as well) Which means…

Fireworks…Crowds…Celebrations…Expectations! Oh fireworks!


Many ask, “Why fireworks?”. Because they might resemble what someone, especially military/war related OR a natural disaster, went through, their trauma, which lead to PTSD.

Many that do understand believe it’s because of the sound they produce, which is very true however not the full truth to them. What about the vibration they give off, vibrations from fireworks can also effect one. Then you have the light produced from them, it can be another PTSD trigger as well.

So what if the one with PTSD might be able to manage through the lights, vibrations, sound but you can’t figure out why fireworks are still a trigger to their PTSD. But are you still missing something? What about the smell? Ah… you may not have thought about that one, the smell. Many that have experienced military trauma relate the smell of fireworks to combat.

In a situation where natural disaster was at hand, it may be more of the sound, lights, and vibration over the smell sense that trigger a person.

You have to keep in mind ALL of the body’s senses when it comes to PTSD. PTSD can react to or be triggered by anything that can be sensed that reminds them of what happened to them and was going on around them at the time of their trauma.

At times, those that are triggered by fireworks can find ways to cope through them, others may have a more difficult time doing so. It all depends on the person, their level of coping at that time, as well as if there is time to prepare for a possible trigger.

So what can you do?

* Some will face what is going on. Actually sit, watch, and focus on fireworks to try to help keep themselves grounded to present time and place.

* Some will stay inside to avoid the smells fireworks produce. Or to avoid the light they produce, also by keeping the curtains shut to block the light.

* The vibrations are a slight bit more tricky. There’s no avoiding those. If vibrations are a trigger you have to focus to keep yourself grounded. Prepare yourself to what you know is actually taking place or going to take place. Helicopters are another thing that is a huge trigger to many due to vibrations, which seem to fly more during the holiday weekend.

* If the sound is a trigger, sometimes playing music or something you like such as watching a movie can help drown them out. Ear buds or headphones/headsets are wonderful in these cases.

* Using coping techniques/skills can help. To name a few common ones… Breathing exercises, meditation (which there are many different types of meditation, mindfulness is one we use), grounding techniques including focusing on someone or something.

* Talk to someone through these times. Having someone to talk to and focus on can help, as well as help keep you grounded.

Whatever works for you or try different things until you find what’s best for you in each situation, just make sure you do something. Flashbacks and triggers are no joke and sure not a fun experience so do or try things that can help get you through these times.

PTSD does start showing more symptoms when one is getting closer to days like the 4th of July. Recognize that there is a cause for additional symptoms and they are not something that are just coming out of the blue. With PTSD, there is always a “something” to cause the flashbacks or triggers. When you learn to recognize the causes or reasons, it makes it a little easier to handle and learn to cope best as possible when those things come.

To those without PTSD…

Please take into consideration and understand that if one with PTSD cannot manage to join in holiday activities, it’s not that they don’t want to, it’s due to what is going on now that may be triggering their symptoms. They may be overwhelmed, feel pressured, experiencing higher anxiety and stress levels, and a good chance due to the fear of the unknown which is very common with PTSD. It will all depend on a person’s coping level/ability to what they can manage and what they cannot at this point, as well as any triggers which may occur.

So let those with PTSD set their own pace and be the one to push themselves if they are in a position they feel they can. It is perfectly okay to invite them and include them in holiday activities, it actually will make them feel good, but at the same time do not pressure them to do so.

Many may retreat away from others during this time, please understand that this should not be taken personally, when this happens normally it’s due to them needing space to cope and manage their symptoms, as well as not wanting others to see what they go through.

I hope everyone has a peaceful and relaxing holiday, please stay safe out there!


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