Triggers are stimuli that can evoke negative emotions, behaviors or memories, potentially impacting your mental health and well-being. They are particularly significant in the context of substance use, mental health disorders and trauma recovery.

In this article, we’ll look into what triggers are, the types of triggers and effective strategies for coping with them to maintain well-being.

Understanding Triggers

Triggers can be anything—a scent, a scene, a word or a person—that sets off a memory or a flashback transporting someone back to the event of their original trauma. Triggers are very personal; different things trigger different people.

What are triggers?

In psychological terms, a trigger refers to a stimulus that sets off a memory or reaction related to a traumatic or significant event. Triggers are often associated with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), but they can also be prevalent in individuals with anxiety, depression or substance use disorders.

Types of triggers

Triggers can be broadly categorized into the following:

  • Emotional Triggers: These are connected to specific emotions that arise in response to a stimulus. For example, feeling inadequate when compared to others.
  • Environmental Triggers: These include places, people or situations that are reminiscent of past trauma or negative experiences.
  • Physical Triggers: These can be related to bodily sensations like pain or touch that remind someone of past trauma or negative experiences.
  • Substance Use Triggers: These triggers can cause cravings or urges to use substances and are often related to addiction or recovery.

The Impact of Triggers on Well-Being

When triggered, an individual may experience a range of emotions, including anxiety, sadness, panic or a sense of being overwhelmed. These emotional responses can interfere with daily life and overall well-being.

Anxiety triggers

Anxiety triggers can cause sudden feelings of fear or intense worry. For example, someone with social anxiety might be triggered by the thought of attending a large gathering, resulting in avoidance behavior or a panic attack.

PTSD triggers

Individuals with PTSD may have triggers that bring back memories of the traumatic event. These can be especially distressing and can lead to flashbacks, nightmares and severe emotional distress.

Relapse triggers

For those in recovery from substance use, triggers can lead to a relapse. Common relapse triggers include stress, exposure to drugs or alcohol and people or places associated with past substance use.

Dealing with Triggers

The first step in managing triggers is to identify them. Keeping a journal can be helpful in recognizing patterns and understanding the specific circumstances that lead to being triggered.

Developing coping strategies

Once triggers are identified, developing coping strategies is crucial. This might involve practicing relaxation techniques, seeking support from friends or a therapist or engaging in healthy activities that distract from the trigger.

How to deal with triggers

Here are some strategies for dealing with triggers:

  • Mindfulness and Grounding Techniques: These practices help keep you connected to the present moment and can be useful in managing emotional responses to triggers.
  • Therapy: Professional therapy can provide tools and support for understanding and managing triggers, especially those related to trauma or substance use.
  • Support Networks: Having a strong support network can provide a sense of safety and belonging, which is essential when dealing with difficult emotions.

Preventing Trigger Responses

While it’s not always possible to avoid triggers, there are ways to reduce their impact and prevent negative responses.

Building resilience

Building emotional resilience can help you cope with triggers more effectively. This involves developing a positive mindset, practicing self-care and strengthening coping skills.

Changing the environment

Changing or avoiding environments that are filled with triggers can be beneficial. For example, someone recovering from alcohol addiction might avoid bars or parties where alcohol is present.

Professional help for severe triggers

For triggers related to severe trauma or substance use, seeking professional help is often necessary. Therapies like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) or Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) can be particularly effective.

Extra Help for Dealing With Triggers

Triggers are a natural part of life, especially for those dealing with mental health issues, trauma or substance use recovery. Understanding what triggers are and how they affect well-being is the first step in managing them. By recognizing triggers, developing coping strategies and building resilience, individuals can reduce their impact and maintain their well-being. It’s important to remember that seeking help is a sign of strength, not weakness, and professional support can make a significant difference in dealing with triggers.

Holly Hill Hospital, located in Raleigh, North Carolina, provides treatment programs that may be able to help with coping with triggers. Call us today at 919-646-3355 to learn more or get started.

Holly Hill Hospital

Holly Hill Hospital is an inpatient and outpatient psychiatric and addictive disease health system for patients of all ages. Located in Raleigh, North Carolina, we pride ourselves on helping patients return to their families and communities happier and healthier for nearly 40 years. We give our patients excellent coping and recovery skills.

We have several different nurturing and beautiful locations, which includes our main, adult and children’s locations. Some of our services comprise of our child, adolescent, young adult, adult and geriatrics programs. Through these programs we provide treatment for dual diagnosis/co-occurring disorders, depression, addiction treatment and more.

To schedule a no-cost assessment or for more information, please call 833-425-1800