Every day we experience more emotions than we can keep track of. Whether it is happiness, sadness, anger, disgust, fear, confusion, or anything in between, we are often expected to be ready to respond to a wide variety of emotions.
At any given point these emotions can also catch us off guard due to something we’ve experienced in the past, or because of an uncomfortable situation we are currently in. These emotional “triggers” are often associated with anxiety-related conditions or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
A trigger can be just about anything. Memories of previous experiences, moments that can put us on edge, or even events we are prepared for can sometimes trigger an emotional and physical response from us, often against our will. Understanding how to watch for these triggers and identifying how best to handle them is often a significant step in the road to our continued mental health.
Recognizing the Physical Symptoms of Your Trigger
Getting to know your own mind and body can often seem like a strange exercise. Keeping track of situations that can generate a strong emotional response from us, or even a physical response in extreme conditions, is important to better understand what we need for continued growth.
Before we are overwhelmed by an emotional trigger, there are often physical symptoms that we can watch out for to better predict or understand our state of mind. These symptoms you might experience often have many similarities to anxiety, such as:
- Increased Heart Rate (often referred to as a “pounding” or “racing” heart)
- Nausea, Queasiness, or an Upset Stomach.
- Dizziness or Trouble Concentrating
- Shaking or Sweaty Palms
While not all triggering moments or experiences are going to have the same solutions, these physical symptoms are often a good sign for us to step away or remove ourselves from a given situation. Being aware of ourselves is often the best first line of defense to protect ourselves from traumatic triggers.
The Emotional Signs of a Trigger
When physical symptoms do not act as a telltale sign, an emotional experience tends to be what sets off a traumatic trigger. Despite its connection to PTSD, it’s important to recognize that just about everyone has an emotional trigger. Most of us have some behavior or event that when it occurs, causes us to react to the detriment of our own mental health.
These triggers can vary widely in nature, as they are built out of our own experiences and current state of mind. Some common factors that are known to trigger intense emotions include:
- Being Left Out or Ignored
- Harsh Criticism and Disapproval
- Being emotionally smothered or Overwhelmed
- Doubt and Insecurity
- Emotional or Physical Rejection
- A Betrayal of Trust
- Unfair or Unjust Treatment
- Challenging Your Beliefs or Assumptions
- A Loss of Agency or Control
Whether we respond to these sorts of events negatively or positively often has more to do with our frame of mind and mental health than the actual circumstances surrounding the situation. That’s why therapy and introspection with the goal of identifying these dramatic triggers can be so beneficial for us in the long run. Understanding your triggers and developing actionable plans for how to deal with them is a formative part of developing sustainable emotional health.