Drawing explaining how a trigger comes to elicit a negative emotion

How A Trigger Elicits A Negative Emotion

WHAT IS A TRIGGER?  

  • A trigger is a stimulus that prompts recall of a previous traumatic experience; an external event or situation that may produce very uncomfortable emotional or psychiatric symptoms. 

HOW ARE TRIGGERS FORMED? 

  • Triggers form in your amygdala through association and pairing. When a negative event or situation happens your amygdala attaches an emotional reaction to that memory. When a trigger is paired with a negative event, typically something that automatically causes pain, discomfort, or negative responses, the trigger comes to elicit fear or anxiety. Your amygdala learns from your experiences but is known for making errors. It’s important to remember that your amygdala isn’t logical and is guilty of turning certain situations and objects into a trigger for anxiety. 

WHAT ARE EXAMPLES OF A TRIGGER? 

  • You were sexually assaulted, and you hear a song that was playing at the time of the assault. 
  • Walking down the hallway after a school shooting.
  • Driving a car after having been in a bad accident.
  • Walking down a dark alleyway after being robbed. 
  • The sound of fireworks after serving in the military. 
  • Feelings of dizziness after having passed out. 

HOW CAN I KEEP MY AMYGDALA FROM RESPONDING TO TRIGGERS? 

  • Talking doesn’t stop your amygdala from responding. You have to expose yourself to the event, make new connections, and show your amygdala that your trigger isn’t dangerous. You need to expose yourself to your fears and experience positive events in that exposure. Exposure therapy is a great place to start. 

If you loved reading about triggers, you won’t want to miss out on: Your Amygdala Reacts To Potential Danger Before You Do

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