What is a Trigger?



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Recently  we are often hearing about trigger warnings and on social media, many people will post a  warning before posting something which may be disturbing to others.  Triggers are not something new however until recently many people didn’t think about how something could trigger someone else.  If someone gets triggered, it often takes sometime to get out of the the moment and not think about the memory that was triggered by what they saw, heard or smelled.   Unfortunately it’s impossible to know what will trigger each person and some triggers are unavoidable.  It’s important to know if something will trigger you and to try to avoid any triggering situations.   Triggers are activated through one or more of the five senses: sight, sound, touch, smell and taste.  Sight and sound tend to be the most triggering for people.



  • Often someone who resembles the abuser or who has similar traits or objects of the abuser will be triggering and bring back vivid memories of the abuse.
  • Witnessing someone else being abused.
  • The object that was used to abuse
  • Seeing a place or situation which reminds you of the abuse.


  • Anything that sounds like anger , pain or fear can be triggering.
  • Anything that resembles sounds that the abuser made for example . whistling,  or tone of voice
  • Words the abuser used.


  • Anything that resembles the smell of the abuser
  • Any smells that resemble the place or situation where the abuse occurred (ie. food cooking ,wood, odors, alcohol).


  • Anything that resembles the abuse or things that occurred prior to or after the abuse for example certain physical touch, someone standing too close or the way someone approaches you.


  • Anything that is related to the abuse, prior to the abuse or after the abuse for example. certain foods, alcohol, tobacco.

If you feel triggered  by something there are ways to help you to feel better.  Grounding exercises and deep breathing are usually helpful.  A good grounding exercise is to acknowledge that you’re being triggered, remind yourself that you’ll be ok and that you’re safe and not in the situation.  Think of some positive affirmations to repeat to yourself and most importantly be kind and compassionate to yourself and remind yourself that whatever happened was not your fault.

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