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“I’m triggered. What do I do?”

Updated: 31 minutes ago

You may have heard of the term “trigger warnings” or “getting triggered” by another person before. But what does being triggered actually mean and how can you manage it?

Man holding his head sitting on a leather chair

Read on to learn more about the meaning of "trigger" and what to do when you feel triggered.

What does "triggered" mean?

A trigger is defined as any experience in which a person perceives a threat to their wellbeing and feels out of control, helpless, and endangered. Emotional triggers are people, words, opinions, situations, or environmental situations that provoke an intense and excessive emotional reaction within us due to past trauma.

The term ‘triggered’ dates back to World War I when psychologists were trying to make sense of shell shock and war neurosis. In the new colloquial sense, pop culture uses the term to describe anything that is mildly irritating. But feeling triggered is much more than that.

Being triggered is like having an alarm go off in your body. At that moment, the person who has been triggered is transported back to a moment of trauma.

For survivors of sexual violence, this might be a moment of abuse. For others, it may be the moment of the car accident they were involved in. For many, living through a pandemic has caused long-term emotions of anxiety, fear, lack of control, and panic, as well as fear of death, all of which can result in trauma.