What is a trigger? When something happens which triggers intrusive thoughts or behaviours. Usually leading to panic or anxious feelings. These triggers are often things that people say or images people see.
What is triggering for someone? It really is different for everyone depending on what illness they have and how it affects them however i will use an example. If someone has an eating disorder talking about weight or how much you eat in front of them could trigger them. This is because eating disorders tend to be very competitive and causes the brain to try and control things such as food, that person will then involuntarily start comparing their weight and food intake to yours. This usually leads to them thinking they have eaten too much or weight too much meaning the self hating thoughts get louder. This then causes panic or self destructive behaviours.
How to know if what you say will trigger someone?
If you don't know the person is mentally ill then obviously you don't know they would be triggered by something however if you do have a friend or a loved one who's has a mental illness it's worth looking up more about if you don't know or simply ask them if there is anything which would trigger them. This could take a short time to research however it would be a great help to someone suffering from triggers that are everywhere. It could also help before you speak to say “i was going to say something but i'm not sure if it would be triggering.” You then can try and establish with the person whether it will do any damage.
The other thing to do is to think before you talk. If you are aware of the nature of their illness there is usually main things which that person is scared of or has issues with. If you know these talking about them may trigger the person because of their fear of them. If you think something might be triggering and you don't want to ask don't say it. If it's really important then tell someone who wouldn't be triggered by it. If there's no one else there then tell the personal that you have something urgent to say but you don't want to trigger them.
COMMUNICATION is the key. Ask, look up, and warn people about triggers.
How can I workout my triggers?
At first working out what triggers you may be hard because of all the things going on in your brain. Try and get to the bottom of why you feel anxious. Some triggers are more obvious as you feel anxious straight after the trigger however if it feels like nothings happened and you still are anxious try and review your day. I would suggest to do this after the anxious feeling passes and with someone you trust. Discuss with them how you felt, try identifying the fear (which can be hard) this might then tell you what happened which scared you.
What to do when I get triggered?
Tell someone you trust. Asking for help is crucial. Usually triggers lead to really irrational thoughts over crowding the brain which causes panic. If you can't rationalise them by yourself (which is really hard when you are scared) then ask someone to help you. Write the trigger down, why it causes you to be triggered (i.e what is scaring you about it) and the rational thought to match it. Even trying to do this in your head will help.
How to avoid triggers?
If you have a fear of illness or being ill or you worry about any type of contamination or disease don't google the symptoms. Do tell someone you if feel ill and they can help you. Chances are you are completely okay.
Don't actively go out and look for triggers. I know it sounds silly but sometimes you think looking something up is going to comfort you but if this is often not the case i wouldn't risk it.
If you are frequently getting triggered by people you know you can ask them nicely if they can stop. More on that below. If you are in education and something you learn is triggering, let your teacher know and ask if they can let you leave for a few minutes when they teach that next time.
How to tell people they are triggering me?
If a friend of loved one is always saying triggering things initiate a conversation with them. Often all they want to do is help and wont realise they are triggering you. Ask them if now is a good time to talk. Tell them kindly what they said and that its triggering try to explain why. Make sure they know it's not their fault your illness responds like that.
Why not to joke about being triggered
Joking about being triggered by something (yes for example the meme) isnt funny. No it's not just people being ‘too serious’ and not getting the joke it's actually really insensitive. It makes them feel like their mental illness is a joke and that their feelings are invalid and stupid.
What to do if you have no one to tell?
I would highly recommend that if you are struggling with your mental health that you get help. Being able to talk to someone about how you are feelings is important. However i will put some online spaces where you can talk to someone if you don't have anyone.
Things to remember:
Triggers are different for different people
Talking about emotions can be a sensitive topic so tread carefully
Not everyone thinks the same way as you
Try your best not to get angry even though it is very frustrating
If you are online please be aware of triggering someone by providing trigger warnings
Sharing images or posts online could be triggering (e.g thinspo is very triggering for people suffering from Anorexia)
Anything can be triggering so finding out someone triggers will help
If you have triggered someone and it was an accident it is not your fault. However your actions when someone tells you that it's triggering are important. Remain calm, they are most likely scared to tell you it's triggering you. Please try your best not to trigger them again.
If you are getting triggered a lot it is not your fault. You are not being stupid or inconvenient on any level. If something makes you feel scared then it is not stupid. You are allowed to feel scared and you're allowed to get upset. Even if it's hard try not to get frustrated at yourself because it's not you it's your illness.
Remember that people with mental illnesses are not aliens. Don't stop talking to them because you're scared of triggering them, just be careful what you say because you don't want them to be triggered. As I said before talking to them or reading and understanding their illness will decrease the likelihood of triggering them.