What Are Triggers?

Do you ever feel fine one moment, and then something sets you off out of nowhere? Perhaps you’re on vacation with your family—having a great time and in good spirits—when you feel your mood start to switch.

Your stomach flips and your heart starts to beat faster. Your hands are shaking and you’re nervous and sweating. You don’t understand what is happening until you notice what’s playing on the radio. It’s that song—the one that brings back all those terrible memories. You start to feel as though you’re living the trauma all over again, and you want out. But what do you do?

This short story is an example of what can happen to a person when they encounter triggers. In this story, the song is the trigger, and the result is that it brings up heavy, traumatic emotions in the person who associates it with a distressing memory.



Image kris krug


In other words, a trigger is something that sets off a debilitating flashback. There are tons of different triggers and each person will have different (and possibly multiple) triggers that are specific to their trauma. Examples of triggers include sounds, people, places, smells, words and phrases, touch, taste—basically anything associated with the primary senses, which are linked to the sensory memory function in our brains.

It is extremely difficult to avoid triggers since we don’t have control over the world, our surroundings, and things that happen in life, but it is possible to stear clear of some of them if you are aware of what your triggers are. The next time you get triggered, write about it—where were you? Who were you with? What was playing on the radio? This way you will be able to narrow down circumstantial evidence to find common factors in all your trigger episodes. Then you can make a conscious effort to stay away from whatever it was that set you off.


Feature image JESHOOTS