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In the mental health field, we often talk about “triggers”. What is triggering a symptom, emotional response, outburst, relapse, etc.? A trigger is an instigator for some type of reaction, or the stimulus that provokes a response. An easy example is for someone struggling with addiction. If that person is “triggered” by some emotional event such as an argument or disappointment, they may feel compelled to return to their substance of choice. The emotional event, argument, or disappointment is considered the trigger for the addiction response.

Triggers can be related to trauma as well. An individual who has experienced trauma may be triggered into a flashback or anxiety attack if they find themselves in a similar situation as the previous trauma. A person struggling with anger management might find themselves triggered into an outburst by being cut off on the road. Everyone, even those without a specific mental health diagnosis, has a list of things that will trigger them into an emotional response.

There are ways to identify and avoid triggering events. First, focusing on the senses and how different sights, smells, and sounds might provoke an emotional response, especially for those struggling with past trauma. Also, taking control over our responses to situations, or at least recognizing the ability to take control in the first place. Being mindful of physical signs that may precede an emotional reaction can minimize the severity of a triggered response by allowing us to catch the trigger earlier.

Finally, we can use that physical intuition to change the responding emotion. Deep breathing along with clearing the mind can allow for greater control over emotional reactivity. Once this process is complete and calming has been achieved, figuring out the exact nature of the trigger can help to be better prepared in the future. As was said earlier, we all have triggers related to our past, our views of ourselves and our capabilities for the future. Recognition and coping come from being honest with ourselves and learning to accept our triggers for what they are, rather than getting down on ourselves for what is a natural and honest reaction.

For more information on identifying and coping with triggers, check out the articles below. Call Main St. Psychiatry if you are having difficulty managing your triggers and responses for additional support.

Original material found at: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/wander-woman/201507/5-steps-managing-your-emotional-triggers