A trigger is a word, phrase, environment, picture, anything that can cause someone to feel/ be reminded of a particular negative emotion or time in their lives. So for example if someone said, “I really wish *insert name* hadn’t said that about her food – it really triggered me,” then it basically translates to, “I wish they hadn’t said that, it affected my thoughts and feeling in a negative way.” But no one would actually say that because they’d sound like a goon. Or if you saw something on social media that said ‘PTW’ or ‘TW’ then it means if you are easily upset by things that could possibly relate to your situation then just scroll right on by i.e. don’t read me!
Triggers are completely different depending on the individual and their difficulties; no two people will have had the same experiences and find the same things ‘triggering’ it all depends on what negative feeling, thought or event they associate with this thing. For someone with anorexia someone saying, “You look healthy” would probably trigger them because their ED twists that into ‘You’re not skinny at all, in fact you’re practically obese you can’t possibly have an eating disorder!” While a person without difficulties in this area would probably take it as a compliment and wouldn’t hear anything other than what the person actually said.
Or for a soldier who’d come back from the front line and was suffering with trauma or PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder), then loud noises could trigger them as they’d be reminded of the gun shots or explosions. Or it could be something like a song, if it reminded the listener of a negative feeling and cause the same feelings to resurface. I think you get the picture.
For me personally I have a lot of triggers that most people wouldn’t understand. I won’t go into detail in case I ‘trigger’ (geddit? ;)) anybody but they range from songs, places, TV shows, people running/being chased, stories or even just mentions of certain words. In the short term you can try and avoid them (don’t just not ever go outside again because that’s not going to help anybody!) but ideally the best thing to do would be to learn how to cope with them when they do arise.
- The first step is identifying the trigger/what exactly it is that’s causing you these emotions. When you’ve done this you can begin to talk about it or work through it. You could maybe try writing them down so that you’ve got a record of them and you might even find patterns in when they come up/what types of things your triggers are.
- Be aware of what exactly it is that you’re feeling. I know sometimes it’s hard to pin point what emotion you’re actually feeling but try your hardest to work it out. Are you anxious? Sad? Angry? Whatever it is, when you’ve identified it’s a whole lot easier to work on and eventually learn to accept it for what it is.
- Try and find some coping techniques that work for you. This could be something like taking deep breathes, doing grounding/mindfulness exercises (counting tiles on the ceiling, counting to 100, reciting facts in your head etc.) Or distracting yourself and trying to replace the negative emotion with a positive one.
- Combat them. Don’t aim to get rid of all your triggers in one day because that would be both unrealistic and emotionally draining. But if you can try and tackle a fear or trigger slowly. If you found small spaces triggering then try and put yourself in or around a small space for a short period of time to get yourself used to it. Hopefully one day your fear/trigger will have disappeared and you can go sit in that cupboard or whatever it is you want to do…Get in a lift there we go that’s a slightly more realistic example *rolls eyes at self*
- Remember that these feelings and thoughts don’t own you. You are a strong and capable individual that doesn’t deserve to be affected by any triggers. You deserve all the happiness okay.
I hope this helped you in some way,
I am in the middle of writing a post about stupid things people have said to people with mental health conditions, stereotypes people have said etc. so please comment below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to be featured (your name doesn’t have to be featured in the post, it’s up to you) and help banish the stigma. Thanks a bunch! 🙂