What is a trigger?

If you, or anyone you know, has experienced trauma and are curious about moving forward and changing the way you think and feel about it, contact a therapist. Start the journey of healing by walking alongside a professional who can provide the support and positive regard necessary for you to grow into the best version of yourself. 

So, what is a trigger?

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We hear the word “trigger” a lot when talking about trauma.

A trigger is essentially any stimulus that brings up memories, feelings and/or sensations reminiscent of a traumatic experience. 

Triggers can be smells, visuals, auditory reminders, and even specific dates that transport someone back to their trauma via memory or flashback.

As therapists, one of the first tasks we have in working with trauma is to help our clients identify their triggers. Often a good starting place in our therapeutic work is to generate a list of all the sensory associations a client has with their trauma. This could be the time of day, the season of the year, the appearance of a perpetrator, the smell of the room, the tv show that was in the background, etc.

Having the awareness of what can cause feelings of distress, proactively, can help to reduce the impact that these triggers have.

Triggering events can be very emotionally intense so once we know what can cause the emotional reactions, we are better able to equip our clients with the coping strategies and skills to use in response.

Here's an idea, come up with a list of triggers you might have. These could be positive or negative. For example, the smell of cookies around the holidays. Knowing your triggers is an important step in the healing journey. 

-Meredith Mertens Hegedus