Triggers- more than just a punchline

Madison Venckus, Feature Editor

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Upon hearing the word ‘trigger’, you probably think of an internet joke or some meme that you and your friends use daily to lighten the mood after a bad math test. That’s nice, but instead of laughing along, I think of something different. I think of a gunshot sending me back to a time, an event I wished to never return to. A word, a phrase, a small action can cause an explosion of unwanted thoughts and feelings begging for my attention. But I wouldn’t dare tell anyone about how I feel, to most people my trigger is nothing but a punchline.


A true trigger is a negative emotional response in correlation with one’s mental illness that often returns someone to a traumatic time or event. The emotional response can be fear, sadness, panic, flashbacks, and pain, as well as any physical symptoms associated with these emotions like shaking or loss of appetite.


The word “trigger” or the phrase “I’m triggered” is commonly used in a joking matter in response to a joke made by a friend, or as a punchline itself. Although the word “trigger” has turned into a practical joke, real triggers can vary in severity and are most harmful when encountered without any prior warning.


The first time I was exposed to ‘trigger’ was well before it became the subject of a never-ending thread of jokes. Before my first session began, we were asked to state any triggers. This was foreign to me, therefore I had stayed quiet unsure of what that meant; but as we proceeded on, I became well aware of the term. As we went in a circle, words like divorce, drugs, and death came from people throughout the room.


Nevertheless, there are people who think that trigger warnings are coddling for teenagers and that being uncomfortable is a formative experience for young people. I agree, teenage years are some of the most uncomfortable years in a person’s life, and everyone is exposed to experiences that may make them uncomfortable and sometimes upset. But in reference to one’s mental health and the preservation of a person’s psyche, it’s important to recognize triggers in order to conquer them. It’s blatantly clear that users of the word “triggering” have little to no experience with the word, or understand the severity of it. Making the joke actually dilutes the meaning of triggers, evidently diminishing someone’s internal struggles.


It is impossible to ask for society to reconfigure its way of thinking about triggers overnight, but awareness of how it affects others is the first step.