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What are Emotional Triggers? | Reneau Peurifoy



The things that trigger most of our emotions are easy to identify. You win a prize. A car cuts you off in traffic, nearly causing an accident. You see an old friend. Someone you love ignores you. You successfully complete a difficult project.


A friend makes fun of you in a hurtful way. However, sometimes we experience negative emotions that intrude into our lives and cause us to wonder, “Where did that come from?”


Emotions like these are caused by emotional triggers. These are things that produce a negative emotional response that is either not logical or more intense than what would normally be expected. There are many different things that can produce a response like this such as an object, event, person, or memory. When “triggered” a person can become anxious, angry, or sad.


Emotional triggers are also referred to as psychological triggers or mental health triggers. The three most common types of triggers include the following:


Anxiety triggers:

As the name suggests these are triggers that cause anxiety and even panic in a person. For example, a person with a fear of public speaking might become very anxious just thinking about an upcoming presentation at school or work.


A person with panic disorder might experience intense anxiety or even panic in a situation where they feel trapped even when it’s something as simple as standing in line at a store.


Trauma triggers:

These are usually associated with traumatic experiences that a person has experienced. For some, they come from experiences that occurred when the person was an adult, such as a terrible accident, being the victim of a brutal crime, or experiencing combat. For others, the trauma was experienced as a child.


Sometimes, a trauma trigger can cause flash backs – a vivid recollection of the traumatic event that is accompanied by the intense emotions experienced when the original event occurred. Sometimes a person might even re-experience the physical sensations of the traumatic event.


Anger triggers:

These are when a person becomes irrationally angry about a situation that makes them feel out of control. Anger triggers can cause outbursts of profanity, yelling, threats of violence and other types of aggressive behavior. Anger triggers are often related to trauma triggers. In addition to the negative emotions that are experienced, emotional triggers can produce a large range of physical symptoms such as:

  • Chest pain

  • Dizziness

  • Nausea

  • Rapid heart rate

  • Shaking

  • Sweating

  • Upset stomach

In the next post, I’ll discuss ways to quiet emotional triggers.

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