Hi all, I’m interested in the work of this website. As someone who has never experienced a trigger effect, I wonder if someone who has been affected might be able to outline for me what all the fuss is about? How damaging is triggering? And if something does have a trigger warning, do you always avoid the programme/film etc. - or do you just like to be warned in advance? Thanks
Hi. I’m Nicole, of one the admins. Triggers can widely vary. Sometimes we know what triggers are— sometimes we don’t. Sometimes a trigger will always trigger us, sometimes when we have a warning it is coming we can mentally and emotionally prepare ourselves, and then sometimes triggers are very rare. For people for PTSD or anxiety, sudden triggers can be especially painful because it takes us away from our place of comfort — something we need to be in for our mental health. That doesn’t mean we don’t mind stepping outside once in a while (and sometimes we need to) but we want to be the ones who decide when and where our energy is best spent if possible.
Personally, I have anxiety and panic disorder and I’m currently working through it. Sometimes a trigger will set off mild discomfort, sometimes anxiety, sometimes a full-out panic attack. I have seen people trying to define what a trigger is — that we should reserve the word for the most extreme cases. However, our well-being is on a sliding scale. For those of us who are especially sensitive to not only our environments but have inner turmoil as well, a slight discomfort could escalate throughout the day or put us in a slippery-slope of well-being.
Some people have extreme physical reactions to some triggers. For example, some people vomit or become ill at the sight of others vomiting. Or some people can have seizures if there are flashy light sequences. Those are pretty extreme examples, so if it’s possible, it would be best to say “this is when this scene is coming” so people can look away or leave for 2-3 minutes. It’s better to be spoiled in that sense than to be subjected to physical sickness, I’d imagine. My sister is epileptic and I get bad headaches during flashing lights, so that is an issue I try to take into consideration when screening movies.
In terms of spoilers, here we try to avoid spoilers as much as possible, using descriptors such as “main character” or “in the background there is x, y, z”. If possible, we also say “about 10 minutes into the film / About halfway through the movie” etc. Some people don’t want to be spoiled, and others want to know for sure so they can better prepare themselves.
In moderate to extreme cases, which is what most of the TW community focuses on, people either have reactions such as shock, disassociation, flashbacks to trauma, an extreme amount of empathy that can trigger all sorts of sensitivity and pain, bouts of crying, headaches, body pain from stress, panic attacks, nausea, a loss of safety, etc. At best, a trigger will make someone feel pretty crappy, maybe sad or listless, but at worst, it can set back therapy, remove feelings of safety, cause horrific flashbacks, and do psychological damage, sometimes physical damage. Remember, psychological is connected to the physical. When I have panic attacks, I have pretty intense stomach and chest pain because my muscles tighten. Again, it varies from person to person.
I have been triggered by things, and I may go back and watch them if I am more prepared the second time around. I have also been fairly exhausted and nervous for Game of Thrones, one of my absolute favourite shows. I might call that triggering, but I haven’t decided for myself yet, but I will continue watching it. However, it’s different for everyone. It makes sense if people outright refuse to watch any media that has triggering material for them. People shouldn’t have to “get past” being in pain to have fun or to have enjoyment. For me, I like knowing ahead of time, but I’m rarely triggered by media. In the off-chance I could be, I still want to know so I can be less stressed when I see it. It’s the difference between an “oh, okay. Ugh. Yep there’s that scene.” to a “What? No, no — Oh no. No.” and having to leave the theatre or pause a show.
This is different than shedding a tear at a film or a film making us feel funny about our belief systems or really hating that one actor. I want to make it very clear that for whatever reason people have, they would like a polite head’s up. This isn’t meant as a guide saying “avoid these movies if you’re faint-hearted!” Although sensitive, people with triggers are some of the strongest people you’ll ever meet. Sometimes every day is a battle with what we’re exposed to. All we ask is that we can decide for ourselves where to allocate our precious energy so that we can keep on fighting our battles. We just need all the information we can to make our own informed decisions. :)
If you have any other questions or comments, please let us know and we’ll answer to the best of our abilities.