What does it mean to be ‘triggered'?

What does ‘feeling triggered' mean?

It refers to the experience of developing an emotional reaction to a disturbing topic. Feeling triggered isn't just about being rubbed the wrong way. For individuals with history of trauma, being around anything that reminds them of a traumatic experience can make them feel like they are reliving the whole experience again.
In the context of other mental health disorders, a trigger is anything that prompts an increase in or return of symptoms.

Types of internal triggers

Internal triggers come from within a person. It can be a memory, physical sensation, or emotion. Here are some common internal triggers:
1. Anger
2. Anxiety
3. Feeling overwhelmed, vulnerable, abandoned, out of control
4. Loneliness
5. Muscle tension
6. Memories tied to traumatic event
7. Pain
8. Sadness

Types of external triggers

External triggers come from a person's environment. It can be a person, place, or specific situation. Here are some common examples:
1. Movie, tv shows, or news article
2. A person connected to the experience
3. Arguing with a friend, spouse, or partner
4. Specific time of the day
5. Certain sounds
6. Changes to relationships or ending a relationship
7. Significant dates such as holidays or anniversaries
8. Specific locations
9. Specific smells

How are triggers formed?

A trigger can cause an emotional reaction before a person realises the reason. Often, triggers have a strong sensory connection (a sight, sound, taste, or smell) or are linked in some way to a deeply ingrained habit.
When triggered, the brain might interpret past traumatic events as current and cause the body to re-live the same responses that occurred during the original trauma. This is known as ‘traumatic coupling'.

How to cope with triggers?


Call on your social support


Deep breathing




Expressive writing


Keeping a journal


Mindfulness meditation

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