What is a “Trigger”?

black couple arguing with each other at home

We all experience anger, sadness, fear, and other negative feelings; however, these emotions can be a result of proportionate and logical reasons. When these emotions feel like they originated from almost nowhere or are more powerful than their cause allows, this might be due to an emotional trigger. Mental health triggers depend on one’s personal experiences; therefore, there is an infinite list of things that trigger people. This article is meant to help you understand if you might have emotional triggers and, if so, how to deal with them. 

Emotional triggers can be smells, sounds, people, objects, or memories that provoke extreme undesired feelings. This change in feelings can be sudden; in other cases, it will be more intense than the trigger would normally warrant. Emotional triggers can often be accompanied by : 

  • Anger
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Shaking
  • Chest pain
  • Extreme sadness
  • And many more

Based on the symptoms the person experiences, they might have various types of emotional triggers. Emotional triggers include: 

  • Anxiety triggers: this type is mostly associated with stress and panic. They include nervousness and anxiety that feels like it comes from nowhere and is cored in the trigger.
  • Trauma triggers: this type is frequently caused by PTSD stress. For many individuals, they might subconsciously or consciously stay away from places, people, situations, or things that could trigger them. 
  • Anger triggers: there are times when you might find yourself irrational upset about something or a situation. This is a vital indication of an anger trigger, and it takes a lot to control this type of emotional trigger.

Identifying emotional triggers

This process takes a significant amount of time and soul searching. However, there are steps one can implement to make it easier to identify emotional triggers in life. Additionally, you may have many emotional triggers, but despite this, the important thing is identifying the trigger. 

Managing emotional triggers

Realizing what triggers you psychologically is only the first step; escaping or avoiding trigger situations might be tricky. The following are a few strategies on how to go about your life while managing your emotional triggers:

  • Accept your emotions: since emotions are part of human existence, they can provoke your triggers, and that is okay. Remember to be gentle with yourself and avoid comparing your past experiences in life with your present. The past might have been wounded; as you keep healing, remember that the scars are a reminder that you are more powerful than whatever tried to hurt you.
  • Give yourself some space. The emotional trigger might be overwhelming. Therefore you can always take a step back for some space. It is always okay to take or ask for a break to prevent a negative emotional bomb. When alone, try taking deep breaths and relaxing because your objective is to clear your mind and gain control of your emotions to handle the trigger more effectively. 
  • Open-mindedness: being human at times means our triggers become our masters. If you feel like everyone around you is intentionally making you feel bad, you might have to rethink that. Since they are also humans, they might feel triggered and not be aware. Therefore, being open-minded helps you be more empathetic, avoid being judgemental, and try considering people’s emotions.
  • Practice more positive actions: often, when we experience strong negative emotions, we express them negatively. Suppose you feel lonely and perhaps feel like locking yourself in a room to starve or stress eating; you can try being more positive. Rather than this form of isolation, you can try talking to your friends or family and engage in activities that will stimulate more positive feelings. 
  • Communication: if all the above is ineffective in managing your emotional triggers, it might be time to open up. Talking to the provoked person to prevent the repetition of such a situation is a good step. Express your emotions in a way that does not harm anyone. Then check in with yourself in a composed and calm manner while communicating your feelings.  

Dealing with emotional triggers

The above strategies might not be long-term in managing your emotional triggers. You can meet triggers anywhere at any time, and band-aid solutions might be ineffective. The following are several long-term tips you can implement to deal with emotional triggers: 

  • Being mindful: being psychologically prepared will help you be in connection with your feelings; therefore, you can understand your triggers and manage them accordingly. Self-regulation is a crucial skill to master from a young age until adulthood. Yoga and mediation can be effective. 
  • Be aware of toxic relationships. When a relationship lacks mutual consideration, respect, and understanding is a toxic relationship. You might have people in your life who constantly annoy you regardless of asking them to stop kindly. It would be best to learn how to deal with such people; pausing the relationship may be needed. For your peace of mind, nothing be compromised. 
  • Journal: for some people, journaling feels like work; however, writing down how you feel is therapeutic and can help you notice patterns. Journaling vital information will guide you to avoid or cope with triggers. 
  • Professional help: self-regulation is not the easiest of skills to master. Triggers can be deeply rooted in your demeanor and might be recognized. Seeking professional therapy might help you identify such triggers. In therapy, you can express yourself freely without fear of being judged. Therefore you can manage your feelings better. In therapy, you will be offered guidance and support while in the healing journey. You could be healing from:
    • Rejection
    • Insecurities
    • Loss of control
    • Engaged beliefs
    • Unfair treatment
    • Loss of independence
    • And many more


The bottom line is that learning to know and cope with your emotional triggers is not a day’s job. This might take a while, but constant efforts will pay off significantly for you as a person and in relationships. Unpleasant situations can trigger negative reactions in anyone; however, we can healthily manage triggers and navigate tension easily. 

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