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What are triggers and how do I know if I have one?

169 Answers
Last Updated: 03/16/2022 at 1:29am
1 Tip to Feel Better
Moderated by

Johanna Liasides, MSc


I work with youth and young adults to help them improve depressive symptoms and self-esteem as well as effectively address family, relationship and peer conflicts.

Top Rated Answers
March 28th, 2021 9:19pm
Thank you for the interesting question! Triggers can be characterized as memories, sensations or emotions that bring back a previous traumatic or frightening experience to someone. Exercising can be an example of a physiological sensation in which your heart starts pounding, hands getting sweaty and you become dizzy. This sensation might remind you of the time you were running away from an abusive partner which is an internal sensation. Everyone experiences triggers differently but those are just a few things that could happen when you do become triggered and I thank you for being open about this. EMDR therapy is one type of modality used to resolve unprocessed traumatic memories in the brain in those experiencing PTSD, depression or anxiety. You are welcome to speak to one of our listeners or therapists to explore your thoughts and feelings further. Mindfulness as well as self-help guides are available on our site too.
March 29th, 2021 12:00am
Emotional triggers are people, words, opinions, situations, or environmental situations that provoke an intense and excessive emotional reaction within us. Common emotions that we experience while being triggered include anger, rage, sadness, and fear. Virtually anything can trigger us, depending on our beliefs, values, and earlier life experiences such as a tone of voice, a type of person, a particular viewpoint, a single word – anything can be a trigger. Trembling Palpitations/racing heart Choking feeling or trouble breathing/swallowing Hot flushes Chills Dizziness or faintness Nausea Chest pain/discomfort Feeling of detachment/unreality (known as dissociation) Sweating and of course a few seconds afterward… Intense emotions, i.e. hatred, disgust, anger, fear, terror, grief resulting in self-protective behavior such as shouting, arguing, insulting, hiding, crying, or otherwise emotionally reacting.
April 28th, 2021 12:40am
Triggers are negative stimuli that affect a person's cognitive, emotive, behaviours and psychological well-being. They serve as antecedents to the situation the person finds themselves in and influences the consequences of their behaviour. To know if you have any triggers, notice if any stimuli in your environment affects the way to you perceive that stimuli and then notice how it changes your thoughts, emotions and behaviours in response to exposure to that stimuli. For example, a car honk can be a negative stimuli to someone who has had a previous bad experience with cars or car honks. So, when the person hears the car honk they might get anxious, start sweating or breath heavily, have racing thoughts.
June 16th, 2021 6:54pm
If you have ever felt a strong, seemingly disproportionate, visceral, physical and/or emotional reaction to something that does not ordinarily cause that type of a response in most people, then you may have a trigger. The definition of a trigger depends on who you ask, but mostly there are three ways in which people refer to triggers. In terms of the medical diagnosis of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, a trigger is something which recalls in the individual the original trauma suffered. This trigger often causes a reaction as if that person were physically back in the time and place that they originally experienced the trauma in, and they may react emotionally, or physically, as if that were true. However, the word "trigger" is also sometimes used for other medical diagnoses, such as anxiety or panic attacks, to mean a stimulus that causes an individual to experience symptoms of those diagnoses, i.e. to cause them to have anxiety or experience panic attacks. Colloquially, and in pop culture, people have caught on to references of "triggers" and now use the word "trigger" to mean a variety of things, ranging from its actual medical use (i.e. "the sound of fireworks has been identified as a trigger for her because it triggers her symptoms, since it is reminiscent of the sound of the explosions that occurred in her hometown") to anything than makes someone slightly uncomfortable (i.e. "that outfit is so last season, I feel triggered"). It is important to use the words "trigger" and "triggered" judiciously and compassionately, as they have different meanings in different contexts, and using these words lightly may make people who suffer with medical and/or mental health conditions exacerbated by triggers feel invalidated, alienated, minimized, or marginalized.
June 20th, 2021 1:45am
A trigger can be one of many things such as an action, sound, smell or any number of other things. It generally is thought of as bad/negative and that is what is talked about most of the time. It can be almost anything that brings up strong memories or feelings. In the case of bad or negative triggers, it can bring back negative thoughts or emotions such as fear, anxiety, anger, sadness. When a person is presented with the trigger it can seem like they are back almost reliving that negative experience. Often it can be hard to know about a trigger until a person comes in contact with it. They may also knowingly or unknowingly avoid the trigger to not experience it. The best way I could think to know is when you read the description above did anything come to mind that would bring up those kinds of strong emotions.
July 22nd, 2021 1:17pm
Triggers are experiences/fears that come up whenever you are in certain situations. These fears usually have underlying insecurities surrounding them. For example, when someone compliments you and you think they are lying. This is because you have an underlying experience where you felt not important, unworthy, and the like, so it becomes difficult to think otherwise in the future. You can tell that you have one when your reaction to an event is not based on facts but based on memories which to you might feel like facts. For example, if a friend tells you they are busy but what you interpret is that they don't value you. This could be a trigger.
July 23rd, 2021 3:06pm
Triggers are past wounds that we haven't healed, sometimes when in situations that remind us of the unhealed wound it can trigger a response within us such as; Fight, Flight or Freeze. You may notice that you have a trigger if you find yourself experiencing one of those responses to something you've seen, heard or experiencing. Triggers can bring up feelings from that past wound and be difficult to manage, it is important to work through our triggers in order to heal from past events. If you are experiencing this, it may be helpful to connect to a Listener here at 7 Cups for some support.
July 28th, 2021 1:05am
Triggers are episodes where you find yourself reliving a traumatic event. when I am triggered I can visualize certain scenes of myself in the event. I go into a Fight or Flight mode and I feel short of breath and my heart races and I have to get out of that place but I am frozen or feel paralyzed. I certain words, watching tv, and seeing find many things that can trigger me. Smells, certain sounds, even tv mostly can trigger me, certain words or people's faces can send me back into remembering. When you are Triggered you will know it because you go back to the place in your head and certain things come to the front of your mind about what happened.
July 28th, 2021 5:42pm
Triggers are different external situations or events that cause an emotional response, usually a negative and uncomfortable one, that reminds us of past traumas. I find that listening to our own heads and bodies is one of the best ways to know what triggers us. Then, taking a step back and allowing ourselves to become curious (of course, assuming we are in a safe place to do so) and asking questions such as what and where do we feel it in our bodies and, when we feel ready, try to identify the root and the steps we can take to create new automatic responses to them.
August 1st, 2021 9:36am
Triggers are factors that motivate you to carry out a certain activity/behavior/action. How to identify a trigger - Be mindful of when your mood or thoughts start to elate. Notice how you're feeling. Ask yourself "What has effected me to feel or think this? " You can also use past instances to think deeply and remember what had happened that made you consider doing a certain activity. To identify trigger of a certain action, be aware. When you're noticing the motivation or urge to do this certain activity, take a step back and ask yourself why you're doing this? What was the moment before this? Was that what made you want to do your? How's it related? I hope it helps. (:🌷
September 4th, 2021 7:13am
Triggers are something that when something comes up then your brain gets stuck there. It goes into freak-out mode. It can really affect you emotionally physically and spiritually as well. I know that I have my emotional triggers for anxiety that trigger it and depression as well. Some of them are hard to catch while others come up and just float away. Things that usually come up and float away are not triggers, they are your thoughts, it is something that you do not hang onto regardless of the triggers. That is what I think you will know by your thoughts if you have one or not.
September 16th, 2021 11:27pm
Triggers are the issues that set you off. These can be something as simply as a word to a loud noise. the can bring a grown person to his knees crying, while others can lash out violently. It's such a vast range from a persons own experiences. You may experience triggers by something simple as shortness of breath, to being hospitalized feeling like you are having a heart attack (anxiety) Either way, triggers should never be taken lightly. Simply put, triggers can get the better of us at times, it's how we can cope with dealing with them. When you feel like you are overwelmed by something or feel anxious whether it be from a sound, a taste, a simple photo or a smell. These are just some of the triggers that can set someone off to having anxiety.
October 27th, 2021 4:35pm
I like to think of triggers as brains, because everyone has one. Just like brains, triggers are different for everyone and no one person has the same trigger. Everyone's experiences in life causes different triggers. If one person has been through something in life that causes them to be affected by something, it may have them react a different way then someone else who did not go through this same situation. Your trigger may not be as broad as any other person's trigger. As you grow and learn yourself, you'll find your different triggers throughout your life. These could be good or bad.
October 29th, 2021 9:36pm
When you have a reaction that is out of proportion to the stimulus or happening, then you can guess you have a trigger in that area. A trigger is when a current event kind of sweeps through time and space and latches onto all the similar experiences or traumatic feelings that may surround that sensation, and create in the individual a powerful sensory and out of proportion reaction. One can modulate one's environment, or lighting, or food intake, or many other environmental factors, to minimize the power of triggers over your ability to live life the way you want to. Good luck and may the force be with you!
December 10th, 2021 1:47am
Triggers are topics that make you relive old traumas. If you have trauma, the trigger would be anything that re-opens old wounds that have been the source of personal pain. Look inward and trust yourself - you know your story better than anyone. You can think about times in the past where you had a negative, involuntary emotional or physical response to a topic, a conversation, an image, or a reminder of a past experience. If there are topics you know you don't want to discuss, be on the lookout to avoid reminders. It can cast a darkness over you. If you are triggered, you can seek guidance, and it might be a prompt to try to explore a certain unresolved issue in therapy. But keep track of your moods, and if all of a sudden, you feel a surge of negative emotions, think about if there are any patterns as to any triggering stimuli.
December 10th, 2021 8:12am
Triggers are something in your present that triggers a pain from your past, causing a very strong emotional reaction. You can often realize you've been triggered if you see yourself overreacting to something which is happening. Or if you are being treated (or mistreated) like everyone else, but you are having a much stronger response to it. For instance, your boss is behaving badly and everyone else in the office is mildly annoyed, but you are very, very upset by it. Your boss might be treating you like an abusive past partner, or an abusive parent used to.
December 24th, 2021 1:26pm
Everyone has triggers and often the young are not aware of them or even know they are triggers. When I say young I don't necessarily mean age it can be the age and experiences of their brain. As someone goes through life they gather experiences, traumas, pain, joy and fear. Like a snow ball the more you experience the larger your repository of knowledge grows. It's often seen that young adults those who've experienced a lot of trauma, pain or lack of stability in their life are often more experienced at finding their triggers than someone who's had a more peaceful life and is in their 40s. With a little CBT, talking therapy or just journaling you can reflect and pick out your triggers, after all triggers are just the thorns in our memories. These thorns we experienced in the past often refuse to stay there and will try and prick you again when the situation is right. Take time to explore your memories and find those thorns and when you find one explore it, acknowledge it and learn how to dull it's sharp edge
February 5th, 2022 8:59pm
Triggers are certain topics, words, or actions from others or objects that surround you in your daily life that can bring back negative memories or feelings. One way to detect if you have triggers is to pay close attention to your feelings throughout the day and to observe what brought these feelings on. If something small or minor happened and it brought back a very bad memory or emotion, you likely have a trigger, and figuring out what that trigger is is very important in learning how to cope with it. Being triggered is common and hard to deal with, but deciphering different triggers is only the first step to healing.
March 16th, 2022 1:29am
In the context of mental health, a trigger is anything that consistently causes a negative emotional reaction or negative thinking patterns in an individual. For instance, if someone is intensely afraid of spiders, seeing an image of a spider or hearing the word spider might be a trigger for them. For myself, the way I identify triggers is as follows: 1. I think about strong negative emotional reactions or negative thoughts that I get frequently 2. I think of what typically causes these to happen which I can now take note of as being triggers for me. And you're done! I hope this helps!