HOW CAN I FIND MY, OR MY LOVED ONES, TRIGGERS-and what can I do to help?

262HLet’s talk about triggers.  I’ve mentioned triggers quite a bit throughout my posts.  I’ve touched on them a little.  There have been some really good questions about triggers that has me wanting to expound on them.

Let’s start with what a trigger is, for those of you who haven’t been following along.  A trigger is anything that sets something off in your brain and causes you to react to it.  The types of triggers we are talking about are harmful ones.  These are the types of things and situations that we want to avoid being in for our mental health.

What can be a trigger?

Let’s talk for a minute about what can be a trigger.  Triggers are very personal; what affects one person might not affect the next.  Triggers can also change over time.  You might be able to work through the cause of the trigger and it no longer affects you.  There can also be new triggers that joins the mix.  I talked in an earlier post about how I recently discovered a new trigger-my daughter talking under her breath to me.

There are so many different types of triggers.  Different mental health issues are more prone to certain triggers, however, that doesn’t guarantee that it will actually be a trigger for you.  Some triggers might cause severe reactions, while other triggers are really not even bad enough to address.  If the trigger is small enough to get by without addressing the trigger, it could actually be better to not address it.  The attention to the trigger could cause it to become worse.  However, keep an eye on it and don’t be afraid to address that trigger if it worsens.

Some ideas of triggers could be:
  • stress
  • disorganization
  • noisy environment
  • tight spaces
  • certain people
  • certain places
  • isolation or feeling lonely
  • people who aren’t understanding of what you are going through
  • rudeness
  • hunger
  • being tired
  • holidays
  • certain dates (birthdays, anniversaries of events, etc.)
  • being yelled at
  • sexual harassment
  • financial problems
  • not feeling appreciated
  • family problems
  • end of a relationship
  • smells or tastes
  • load noises
  • a particular noise
  • bad news
  • feeling afraid

The list really could go on and on.  I found a few worksheets online that might make the process of discovering your triggers a little easier.  Depending on the person, you need to decide if it is best for them to do it alone or with someone else.  This one has quite a few good ones.

Triggers can change over time.

It’s important to always be reevaluating yours, and others, triggers in order to stay on top of your mental health.  Triggers are a fluid thing, changing without any notice.  They can stay the same for years and all of a sudden change, for the better or the worse.

I really do mean to say your mental health, even when talking about others triggers.  Your mental health can be affected by the mental health of your loved one.  (Another post that I just realized I need to write.)  

How can I help myself deal with triggers?

Take the time to learn what your triggers are.  Once you know what they are pay attention to yourself.  What works to calm you down?  What situations should you avoid entirely?  Is there anyone that does a good job at helping you?

Once you know what your triggers and coping skills are, take the time to let your loved ones know.  They want what’s best for you and to help you.  They help you best when you tell them what you need.  Be open and honest.  If they can’t handle helping you than you may need to reconsider how much time you spend with this individual.  Your mental health is important.  Don’t break ties, just take the space you need.

Plan ahead.  If you know that you are going to be in a situation with a trigger, decide what you will do ahead of time.  Play out in your head what you can do to help you during different times that you will be faced with a trigger.  If you already have a plan, you will be more likely to follow through with using your coping skills.

How can I help a loved one deal with their triggers?

When you have a loved one dealing with a mental illness your support can really mean all the difference to them.  If you are there to support them and let them know that you love them it can help life be easier for them.  When you recognize that something is a trigger and help them to avoid that trigger it can change their life, for the better.

Sometimes you can’t ever, or even sometimes, avoid a trigger.  In these cases coping skills come into play.  It is important to take the time to realize what has worked and hasn’t worked in the past.  What can you do to help them with these coping skills?  Are they in a place that they can be reminded of their coping skills?  Can you quickly either change the situations or remove them from it?

What can you do to plan ahead to help them?  Can you talk about the possibility of different situations and what you could do to use coping skills?  Deciding ahead of time how you can help and what you can do will make you so much more beneficial for them.

If your loved one tells you what their triggers and coping skills are, respect that.  Don’t think that you know better, you simply don’t.  They need you to support them and be there for them more than ever.  It is a very vulnerable thing to express and open themselves up like that.  Love them!

Get help

Because everyone is so different it is important to take them time to learn what works for each individual.  If you are in a situation where you can’t figure out what the triggers are and/or the coping skills for someone, see a professional.  This is what they are trained in.  It amazes me the things that I would have never thought of that I have learned from them.

Here’s a some good book on triggers.


What experiences have you had with discovering triggers?  How do you help your loved one, or even yourself with triggers?  Please comment at the very bottom of the page, making sure that you are no longer on the homepage.

Disclaimer:  I am not a doctor, nor do I pretend to be one.  I am simply sharing my experiences in hopes of helping someone.  If you think that you, or your loved one, are suffering from a mental illness please see a professional.

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