How To Use The Term Triggered: A Guide


Today’s Guest Blogger is Elly Thorkelson who writes a blog on recovering from sexual trauma (with the world’s greatest dog).  She writes importantly about the subject of triggers and what how they should be used. Thank you for agreeing to write for Elly. Visit her blog at Elly And Gus.

In a world where using the term triggered is seen as a joke, where saying “omg university gave me PTSD” is seen often on social media and where brave people sharing their experiences of sexual assault means that reading the news and going on social media is sending survivors into hiding, here’s how to protect some of our most vulnerable.

Are they just for people with PTSD?

No! I just only have experience with trigger warnings as a way of dealing with my PTSD. People with past trauma, BPD, Anxiety, Depression and way more people with mental illness find safety in trigger warnings.

What is PTSD?

PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) develops in people who have experienced trauma and who have had a hard time processing the trauma, leading to symptoms such as nightmares and flashbacks relating to the traumatic event for a long period of time. Many people with trauma won’t develop the disorder but still may appreciate trigger warnings. Although a small percent of the population has PTSD (of the 70% of adults that experience trauma in their lifetime only 4% will develop PTSD although most will experience anxiety because of the trauma very few actually develop the disorder) just because we are a small part of the population it doesn’t mean that our safety doesn’t matter!

Do they help?

YES. Psychologically if we can prepare ourselves from what we are about to experience we will be able to control our symptoms (if I know a lecture will discuss r*pe I will put my support dog on my lap to distract me, if a veteran knows a film will have loud bangs they will bring ear plugs etc). Trigger warnings mean the difference between people with PTSD being able to safely exist in public and not being able to.

No, Trigger Warnings aren’t a symbol of an increasingly sensitive population.

While people debate the effectiveness of trigger warnings every day on social media, here’s the answer for all of you sceptics; trigger warnings do not mean that people are getting more sensitive, we do not require warning because we “don’t like things” we need warnings because we have a disorder and without them existing in a day to day life is extremely challenging, almost impossible. How do you use trigger warnings? If you are going to say something that you think may be triggering to someone around you, a quick “hey! I’m going to talk about my r*pe, if you need to leave its ok!” Or a professor giving a quick “the next part of the lecture will talk graphically about murder and genocide, if anyone needs to leave feel free to leave now, we will be done with this session in 15 minutes and notes with warnings will be available for you online (for some with a warning they can still listen to the lecture, for some reading is easier that listening, be open and listen to people around you!).

Please, please take the time out of your day to use warnings, it is an easy way to make the world a safer place.

I would love to hear from you so please leave a comment. All feedback is much appreciated. Thank you. Erin

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