When someone has been in an emotionally charged situation or around a specific person for a long period of time, they may have difficulty avoiding triggers as opposed to those who experience emotion and can get over it in more healthy ways. Triggers are known to be various things that remind someone of former memories, feel reminiscent in some way to the person experiencing them, or evoke emotions within them that they would rather not feel again. Because triggers can cause people to deal with flashbacks from their past harmfully, knowing how to navigate one's way through them is key to recovery.
A trigger is a stimulus that sets off a reaction to an old event or experience. And this may cause people who have become sensitive to such stimuli to act in harmful ways, have unhealthy relationships, and suffer unnecessarily. Unchecked triggers often lead people into repeating habits that they wish they would stop doing simply because they're unable to consciously think through their actions before going through with them.
Triggered: External and Internal Triggers
Triggers can be broken down into 2 categories: internal and external. Both can strongly impact the individual feeling the result of the trigger.
External and internal triggers include:
- Depression and anxiety
- A loss of control
- Heartbreak, job loss or grief
- Stress or fear
- Feeling unsafe, feeling misunderstood
- Specific places (home, streets, cities, countries)
- Trauma/PTSD and abuse
- Feeling judged, feeling attacked, feeling invalidated
Triggers come in all shapes and sizes, but often the root cause of trying to understand why one is triggered is either to remember something or suppress it. A safe way of going about this process is to practice self-awareness. Self-awareness is the key to understanding how you’re triggered when in the midst of a stressful event. There are so many triggers that exist which can arise at any time, but what's important is acknowledging your emotions and/or memory beforehand (so you can prepare yourself) through conscious thought by observing yourself internally.
It's important to meditate; self-awareness reminds us that we are all affected by stress on some level, how it affects us may differ from person to person and thus be difficult to tackle alone.
So making sure we work on managing our triggers as best as possible with healthy coping mechanisms such as:
- Therapy or counseling
- Meditation or mindfulness
- Spending time with positive people
- Drinking water or tea for relaxation/hydration
- Joining a support group
- Eating nutritional meals
- Using positive distractions
- Reframing negative attitudes or perceptions
Maintaining a consistent practice of mindfulness can help individuals put their minds in the here and now, providing them with an opportunity to detach themselves from events or circumstances that might have once prevented them from experiencing acceptance.
Tending towards positive character traits is not only beneficial to their personal peace but also encourages them to take care of others without putting undue strain on their resources. Mindfulness practices like placing an emphasis on the present moment rather than thinking about regrettable past events and worrying about possible future outcomes make it easier not to fall prey to addiction or stress-inducing thought processes. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy strategies can be used to help people prevent relapse into harmful habits rather than allowing the cycle of destructive behavior to loop again, thereby helping them to manage triggers more effectively.
Unhealthy coping methods such as substance abuse or any other forms of addiction can hook users right from the beginning and can differ per individual. In many cases, individuals who have not found healthy coping mechanisms indulge in toxic behaviors. Unexposed triggers can create addictions that ultimately effect an individual’s quality of life.
Some examples of unhealthy trigger management include but are not limited to:
- Misdirected anger
- Emotional, psychological, sexual, financial or mental abuse
- Making excuses for harmful behavior
- Developing poor behavioral compulsions
- Abusing harmful substances
- Binge eating or drinking
- Bottling it up
- Exploding with anger or rage
- Befriending people who abuse or sell drugs or alcohol
Triggers are usually created when you've been exposed to something over and over in your lifetime. A trigger can be a positive influence, like running into an old friend or perhaps experiencing the smell of freshly-baked cookies which may remind you of home when you were young. But a trigger can also be negative instead, for example getting reminded about a tragic event from your past that brings up pretty intense emotions, or accidentally seeing a hideous spider which could really freak some people out! There are lots of different kinds of triggers and they're often mostly normal things we encounter everyday that we find both positive or negative. However, if you think that triggers are becoming more frequent or affecting you more than normal then it might be time to talk with someone who has knowledge on how to deal with them properly, like a psychologist - they'll be able to provide useful advice and coping strategies for dealing with them effectively.
Emotions like anger, guilt, irritability and low self-esteem can surface when individuals are triggered and in turn spiral out of control into various behaviors. The nature of emotional or mental triggers is that they can run very deep within someone and be overwhelming to them. Some triggers can push one towards harming themselves while others seek out harming others. Substance abuse is not uncommon as a means to cope but is highly destructive and harmful for both the person abusing substances as well as everyone else around them - especially those they care about the most.
Individuals with problematic triggers may or may not know the cause and can benefit from therapy. Therapy or treatment for distressing triggers can reduce the likelihood of one developing troubling compulsions and chemical use disorders. Therapists in rehab facilities can offer individuals tools and ideas that are helpful while battling these troubling emotions and compulsions. Individuals can learn new and healthy coping mechanisms to help ease symptoms of inner demons, which is vital if they are going to break the yoke of bondage that comes along with serious addictions. Cognitive behavioral therapy will teach one how to control their impulses, which can lower compulsions. Peer groups offer support along with empathy along the way as a person recovers.