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What Does It Mean to Be Triggered?

If you’ve been anywhere online over the last few years, it is very likely you have seen or heard the use of the word “triggered” or “trigger warning” in some capacity. But what does this mean exactly?

A trigger is something that causes a person to have a vivid recollection of a trauma they have experienced in their lifetime. A trigger can be many things, such as mentions of suicide, graphic imagery of blood or physical abuse, or references to sexual assault. 

A trigger is not always a widely obvious thing either, and can quite literally be considered anything that makes a person upset, such as a song that reminds them of a painful moment, smells that can remind them of a person, a place where a traumatic event occurred (such as a hospital), or even a particular day in the year.

Sometimes a person may not fully understand their triggers and only gradually learn them over time when seeking mental health therapy in Vancouver to help identify the root of their trigger.

What Is a Trigger Warning?

A trigger warning is a fairly simple concept. It is a notice that is put before potentially triggering content, giving the viewer or reader a chance to skip over and avoid something that may be a trigger. Often this term is abbreviated as “TW:” on places such as social media before a person makes a post about a sensitive topic.

Trigger warnings are helpful on social media, especially, as many of these websites allow for filtering that will block or remove the triggering content from a person’s timeline altogether.

Triggers are Very Real

Triggers are not a new concept and have been discussed in the world of mental health professions for decades. However, the term has become more widely used, often incorrectly, in mainstream media and casual conversation, which has diluted its impact and led to confusion, even as far as becoming “meme-able” by online trolls.

Rest assured that triggers are a very real thing and can cause extreme distress and overwhelm a person when they take place. Reading something legitimately triggering can cause vivid moments of panic and flashbacks for those who suffer from PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder).

Likewise, those who are recovering from substance abuse problems may also try to avoid any depictions of things like drugs and alcohol in the media, even those used in positive or celebratory light, in fear of triggering a relapse in their recovery.

Triggers have nothing to do with “being sensitive” and are absolutely nothing to be ashamed of. A trigger is not just simply an uncomfortable situation you’d rather not discuss. Uncomfortable topics, while negative, do not cause reactions such as dissociation, PTSD-related flashbacks, or other forms of emotional distress.

Common Triggers

The following are just some of the many triggers a person can have:

  • Physical assault
  • Emotional abuse
  • Death of a loved one
  • Military conflicts
  • Sexual assault
  • Transphobia
  • Racism
  • Homophobia
  • Self-harm and suicide
  • Eating disorders
  • Miscarriages
  • Loss of a pet

If you find yourself becoming overwhelmed by your triggers, consider seeing a mental health professional such as a therapist who will help you to overcome your triggers.

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