Understanding Triggers and Their Impact on Mental Well-being  

In large part due to social media, the term “triggered” has become a common buzzword, often used to describe strong emotional reactions. The frequency with which this term is used has diminished its true meaning and what is behind it. What does it actually mean to be triggered, and why is understanding this concept important for our mental well-being? 

What Are Triggers?  

Triggers are stimuli, experiences, or situations that evoke intense emotional or physical responses. They are often tied to past trauma or negative experiences. The emotional reactions can manifest as anger, anxiety, sadness, fear, or even panic. Physical responses can include raised heart rate, sweating, shortness of breath, or any other sensation related to your trauma or experience. 

Triggers can vary widely from person to person. What might be triggering for you might not affect someone else in the same way. Triggers can be explicit, such as a specific word or sound, or more subtle, like a certain smell or a place that reminds you of a past event. In the area of mental health, a trigger can bring about symptoms or make them worse.

Types of Triggers  

Triggers can be broadly categorized into internal and external triggers. An internal trigger is an emotion or thought that comes from within you. For instance, self-doubt, memories of a distressing event, or feelings of inadequacy can all act as internal triggers. External triggers are external factors in the environment that provoke a response. Examples include loud noises, crowded places, or even specific words that remind an individual of a traumatic incident.

How Triggers Impact Your Mental Well-being  

Triggers have a significant impact on mental well-being and can disrupt your emotional equilibrium. When triggered, the body’s fight-or-flight response is often activated. This causes physical symptoms such as increased heart rate, rapid breathing, and muscle tension. Moreover, triggers can reignite past traumas or unresolved emotions. This contributes to a cycle of negative thought patterns and affects daily functioning.

Repeated exposure to triggers without effective coping mechanisms can lead to chronic stress, anxiety disorders, depression, and even post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). It is essential to recognize and address triggers to prevent these negative outcomes.

Coping Strategies for Dealing with Triggers  

Identify Your Triggers  

Understanding your personal triggers is an important step toward managing them. Reflect on past experiences or situations that have elicited intense reactions. Keep a journal to track instances when you felt triggered and note the circumstances surrounding them. This process can help you recognize patterns and gain insight.


Getting triggered is not merely about feeling upset or angry. It is a complex response rooted in past experiences. Recognize your triggers and the reaction they evoke in your body and mind. Develop a deeper understanding of how they affect your thoughts and behaviors.

Build Resilience

Strengthen your emotional resilience through self-care practices. These include regular exercise, proper sleep, a balanced diet, and staying socially connected.


Practice mindfulness techniques to stay present and manage your reactions when triggered. Breathing exercises, meditation, and grounding techniques can be effective in moments of distress.

Create a Supportive Environment  

Friends and family can play a significant role in supporting you. Open communication about triggers and their effects helps those close to you understand your needs better. Do your best to create a network for yourself that encourages your mental well-being.

Seek Professional Help

Recognizing and addressing triggers is essential for maintaining mental well-being and preventing long-term emotional distress. If triggers significantly impact your daily life, consider seeking therapy or counseling. A therapist can help you understand and cope with triggers by helping you develop healthy coping mechanisms.

Trust Mental Health has a team of BIPOC therapists that offer trauma therapy and other types of mental health therapy in California


What are triggers in the context of mental health?  

Triggers are stimuli or situations that evoke intense emotional and/or physical reactions in people. They are often linked to past trauma or negative memories. 

How do triggers affect mental health?  

Triggers can lead to a range of emotional and physical responses, including panic, increased heart rate, and muscle tension. Exposure to triggers can also resurface past traumas. Over time, unchecked triggers can worsen stress, anxiety, depression, and even post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

What are some common examples of triggers?  

Triggers vary from person to person. They can be external, like specific sounds, smells, or places associated with past traumas. Or they can be internal, such as negative thoughts, self-doubt, or memories of distressing events.