Categories: Recovery

What it Means to Be ‘Triggered’

When people talk about being ‘triggered,’ this is usually something psychological and physiological going on in their brains. From a mental health perspective, being ‘triggered’ narrowly refers to the experience of people with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) experiencing symptoms of a traumatic event after being exposed to a trigger. Triggers are internal or external, including sights, sounds, and emotions that remind a person of past trauma. They can be flashbacks of using drugs or when you felt like you were doing things in the past that are no longer part of your life. Find out more about triggers and how they work so that you can work to avoid them when possible. 

Trigger Types

Triggers can be a mix of things both internal and external. There are different types of events that may be considered triggers when it comes to mental health challenges. Some of the most common triggering events include:

  • Anger
  • Sadness
  • Anxiety
  • Stress
  • Loneliness
  • Abandonment
  • Tension

Some external triggers can include anything from an anniversary, a violent movie, loud noises, seeing someone else using drugs, and interactions that bring up old feelings or memories. 

Forming Triggers

While we do not know exactly how triggers are formed, it is thought traumatic memories are stored differently in the brain than non-traumatic memories. Past events may be interpreted as threats, which cause the body to experience symptoms similar to the original trauma. Triggers cause an emotional reaction before a person realizes why they are upset. Triggers often come from a strong sensory connection. A trigger is often connected to trauma so that it feels like reliving it right at that moment. Trigger warnings are not necessarily helpful. They are used to notify people of triggers but they may not be prepared, even if they think they are for it. There is no real way to know how a person will respond to a trigger until it happens. 

Coping Mechanisms

When coping with triggers, you can focus on some really key things. It is not easy to avoid them, so learning to focus on what can be done in the midst of a triggering event is better support for the journey of recovery: 

  • Learn relaxation techniques
  • Keep a journal
  • Engage in exercise
  • Call someone for accountability when it happens
  • Watch diet and health habits
  • Get enough sleep
  • Learn to breathe with breathwork techniques or yoga

Feeling triggered is a sign your body and brain are trying to get you back on the recovery train. It is important to keep up with mental health and physical doctors so you can make sure you are healthy. They will also assess your symptoms and determine the best treatment options for your situation. There may always be some triggers, but learning to cope is going to be the best way to learn how to navigate the challenges you face in life in a healthy way.

A Step in the Right Direction provides quality sober living for clients seeking support for addiction recovery. We teach people how to live a sober life through community building, accountability, and healthy living. Our sober living program is staffed by people who understand the power of addiction. For more information about sober living programs for men and women as well as recovery programs, call (818) 921-7132.

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