Mental Health Triggers

Content Notice: The following article discusses PTSD/cPTSD, eating disorders, depression, and OCD.

Mental health triggers are things which, when encountered, can affect a person’s ability to function by triggering a mental illness. The term is most often used for PTSD and cPTSD (trauma triggers), but it can apply to other illnesses — including eating disorders, depression, and obsessive-compulsive disorder, among others. The effects are most often mental and/or emotional, but can also manifest physically.

Everyone’s triggers are different. For me, things that remind me of past abuse can trigger flashbacks or panic responses (cPTSD), and sleeping too much can cause a depressive episode. For other people, it could be sudden loud noises and sleeping too little. It varies from person to person.

How the same person responds to the same trigger can also vary depending on the circumstances. E.g., my cPTSD-related panic responses tend to manifest differently at night (shaking, hyperventilating) than during the day (dissociation).

Trigger Warnings and Content Notices

Trigger Warnings, as well as the more general Content Notices, serve two purposes: first, to allow someone to choose whether they want to engage with potentially-triggering content, and second, to allow someone to prepare themselves before engaging with it.

Some people respond to requests to do this by saying it’s “coddling” — but I’d argue it’s the exact opposite. First, choosing to not engage with potentially-triggering content is an entirely valid decision, and anyone who says otherwise can go fuck themselves. Second, trigger warnings and content notices allow people to engage with content they would otherwise avoid, because the heads-up allows them to properly prepare for it.

“Triggered” Jokes

A recent trend is for people to joke about being “triggered” when they in fact are not. I will put it bluntly: by making jokes about being triggered, you are making it harder for people who have triggers to be taken seriously. You are actively hindering their ability to participate in society. This is not fucking okay.

Conclusion

Mental health triggers are complicated things. They vary from person to person, as do people’s responses to them. The same person can respond to them differently depending on context. While they often manifest emotionally or mentally, they can also manifest physically. They exist for more than just PTSD.

Trigger Warnings and Content Notices allow people who have mental health triggers to more safely engage with content they otherwise may have to avoid entirely, and avoiding content because of what it contains is always a valid choice.

Mocking people’s mental health is not okay.