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Wellness > Mental Health

Operation Brightside: Identifying Triggers and Growing from Them

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at BU chapter.

Throughout the entirety of my high school career, it was common to hear people say “I’m triggered” in a joking manner. I was no stranger to this — I said it too because it was just what people in my school did when something went slightly wrong. It wasn’t until I started seeking help for my mental health that I realized what being “triggered” actually meant, and that’s when I decided to learn from my own triggers.

In order for you to identify your own triggers and grow from what they tell you about your own mental health, it’s important to know what a “trigger” is in psychological terms. GoodTherapy.org states that a trigger is: “a reminder of past trauma” that may cause a person to “feel overwhelming sadness, anxiety, or panic” or experience flashbacks. Triggers can be predictable, like a person recovering from bulimia being served one of their binging foods; however, they can also be surprising, such as the smell of hospitals when someone witnessed a loved one pass in one. 

I realized the importance of identifying my triggers when I found myself “cornered” in a discussion and had a panic attack in front of my friends. For me, one of my largest triggers is any confrontation or disagreement, no matter how minuscule or giant it may seem to others. This makes it really hard for me to have debates (or even calm discussions) with others because I am triggered by the slightest disagreement from someone towards me. 

That being said, a lot changed for me when I began to identify my triggers. I am not a medical professional (I’ve never even taken a college-level psychology course), so my advice isn’t a cure-all for others. However, I think that naming triggers, writing them down in a journal, and thinking about why that one thing is a trigger for you is extremely helpful. 

Person sitting on grass writing in journal
Photo by Stocksnap on Pixabay
Once I began to write down my triggers and think back on why those specific mannerisms and incidents may elicit such a volatile reaction from me, my life got a lot better. For example, with my issues regarding confrontation/disagreement, I now know to avoid topics that will start an argument or to repeat this mantra in my head: “I am valid to my own opinions, and I am strong in my beliefs.” This simple affirmation helps me to stay calm in heated discussions and work through debates instead of running away from them. 

By identifying my triggers, I’ve also learned a lot about why my anxiety is the way it is and where it may have come from. It’s not a cure-all by any means, but understanding why your brain works the way that it does is an excellent first step towards learning to work with your brain instead of against it. 

I strongly urge you to work on identifying your triggers and try to grow from them if you are struggling with any past trauma or mental health issue (I also recommend you do so with the help of a licensed therapist who can guide you through the process). The next time something causes a panic attack, a depressive episode, a flashback, or whatever symptom you experience: write it down. Then, later when you are calm, do some journaling about why that moment may have caused your reaction. 

I hope that you can stay safe and keep a positive attitude! Please remember that it’s important to seek out professional help if you are really going through a rough time — after all, I’m just one girl sharing my own experiences. 

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Amille is a senior at Boston University pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in English. Her passions include travel, cooking, and creative writing; when she isn't testing new recipes and working on her first novel, she's spending time with pets and making memories with family.