Dear people who use the word trigger when you’ve never actually been triggered,

STOP!

There is already tons of stigma surrounding mental health. Improper usage of the word trigger is only setting us back further. When someone is triggered the result is no laughing matter. A true trigger can result in a panic attack or severe flashback to a trauma. It is very common for abuse survivors, and those still in abusive situations, to have triggers. Many times we may not even realize what the trigger is until we encounter it. It’s not something we have control over. It’s not being upset or having your feelings hurt because someone on the Internet doesn’t agree with the way you view the world. Many of my triggers elicit a fear response. A simple phrase that in normal context isn’t bad at all can trigger my body to flashback to when that phrase was not used in normal context, but in a controlling and abusive manner.

Let’s look at it like this. Have you ever been so mad at someone that you clench your fist. Not because you’re going to hit the person, but because you’re trying to keep your cool. So you take a deep breath and you clench your fist and try to calm yourself before the next words come out of your mouth. It’s not uncommon, and it’s not a bad thing if you’re simply using it as a method to calm yourself down. Now imagine that you’re dating someone who used to be physically abused. You guys have a fight, no big deal couples fight all the time. You don’t like yelling, but you’re really frustrated at this point. You clench your first to help calm yourself. Your significant other sees you do this and a look of fear comes across their face. Instantly they break down in tears and you don’t understand why. You were doing everything you could to keep your cool. It’s because even though your partner knows you’re not going to hit him/her, he/she flashbacks to the time when they were hit. When that balled up fist meant the next thing coming was a direct hit. Their body is afraid, it’s a fight or flight response. That is a real trigger.

Using the term when you’ve never truly experienced a trigger, example “ugh me and my bf just had a stupid fight. I’m so triggered, I’ve never fought like this before” or as a joke, “OMG your comment about milk being gross sooo triggered me, I love milk” needs to stop. Because you’re not being serious, those of us with actual triggers aren’t being taken seriously. It’s leading to people thinking those of us with triggers are overreacting, and people thinking that a rape survivor asking for a trigger warning means that they are overreacting.

So, I’m asking you, please stop. If you don’t know what a trigger is, or you’ve never truly experienced one, stop using the term. You’re making it hard for those of us who actually have issues.

 

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