Identifying Emotional Triggers: Common Triggers & What They Mean

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Regardless of mental wellness, negative emotions are just a part of life. On any given day, something can happen that makes an individual upset, afraid, or angry. But sometimes people find themselves feeling these emotions with no appropriate cause. In cases like these, emotional triggers may be the reason for abrupt, negative moods.

An emotional trigger could be an item, subject, word, or even memory that evokes very strong negative feelings for you. Things that trigger people often affect a person regardless of their overall situation, which makes them especially distressing for people living with mental health conditions.

If you find yourself suddenly feeling upset or distressed, it could be due to a mental health trigger. For that reason, today we’ll look at some of the most common triggers and give guidance on how to deal with triggers in your daily life.

emotional triggers

Signs of Psychological Triggers

Because a trigger is often related to a traumatic event, there is no emotional triggers list to follow. This means that to identify triggers, you have to examine how you feel in response to external causes.

For example, triggers can cause a variety of negative emotions, such as:

  • Fear
  • Sadness
  • Anger
  • Insecurity
  • Anxiety

The response to a trigger is not solely mental, either. Emotional triggers can present with physical symptoms that feel similar to those of an anxiety disorder. These physical signs of triggers include:

  • Increased heart rate
  • Nausea
  • Shaking
  • Dizziness
  • Sweaty palms

When you feel these emotions or physical sensations come on without warning, it’s likely due to a psychological trigger. To identify the emotional trigger, you have to look at the situation around you. For example, you might go to the doctor’s office one day and suddenly feel an intense emotional response. If this happens every time you see that doctor, then the trigger could be going to the doctor’s office. However, it could also be something in the office, like a poster that reminds you of a traumatic event or a topic of conversation.

While there is no list of triggers to choose from, there are different types of emotional triggers. Let’s look at some of these subcategories of triggers to help you identify your own.

Types of Emotional Triggers

A trigger can be truly anything, but most triggers fall into one of a few categories. Which category your trigger falls into can be based on the initial traumatic incident, the feelings it causes, or a combination of both. The most common types of triggers are:

  1. Anxiety Triggers: Like the name implies, anxiety triggers relate to feelings of extreme nervousness that come on seemingly out of nowhere. Common signs of anxiety triggers are nervousness, shaking, stomach troubles, and increased heartrate. And common examples of anxiety triggers include going out in public, making phone calls, or trying something new.
  2. Anger Triggers: These emotional triggers lead to strong, sudden outbursts of anger. Often, these emotional triggers are based in trauma, and they leave individuals feeling a lack of control. Signs of anger triggers include bodily tension and fast, shallow breathing. Sometimes individuals try to use drugs and alcohol to manage anger triggers, which can lead to co-occurring disorders.
  3. Trauma Triggers: For individuals who have undergone trauma, processing those feelings can be challenging. For some, trauma triggers may manifest alongside post-traumatic stress disorder, although they can occur on their own as well. These emotional triggers often manifest with avoidance behaviors, where people (knowingly or not) avoid situations that remind them of past trauma.

As you can see, there are many different types of triggers, and some triggers do not fall neatly into any of these categories. That means there are no simple ways to identify triggers. In fact, it requires a lot of introspection and self-reflection, which means it’s important to have good mental wellness if you want to successfully identify your emotional trigger(s).

Identifying Emotional Triggers

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Since identifying triggers is such a personalized process, it’s important to have a clear head. For that reason, many people identify emotional triggers while receiving mental health treatment. In a safe and serene environment, it’s much easier to reflect on past experiences and the associated emotions. In this way, identifying emotional triggers becomes much easier with professional assistance.

The type of mental health care you need will depend on your mental health and unique history. For example, an inpatient mental health program can be a crucial reset for individuals who need to take time to focus solely on their mental health. Alternatively, a crisis care program might be more appropriate for someone whose emotional triggers have threatened their mental stability.

In some cases, people who struggle to identify emotional triggers may turn to drugs and alcohol as a means to cope. In situations like this, a dual diagnosis program may be necessary to address both mental health issues and co-occurring substance use disorders. By treating both issues simultaneously, comprehensive and holistic healing becomes possible, which can help individuals break the cycle of poor mental health and substance abuse.

When you receive mental health care, it becomes much easier to identify emotional triggers. And not only will you be able to identify your triggers, but you’ll receive expert guidance that is tailored to your unique experience. In this way, you will learn to manage psychological triggers and minimize their power in your life.

Would you like to learn more about how we can help you overcome emotional triggers? Call our friendly and helpful admissions specialists at 772-408-5871 or fill out our confidential contact form. Dealing with triggers can be concerning, but there are people ready and willing to help.

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