Trigger Warnings: Sign of an “Overly Sensitive” Generation?
You may have noticed that I occasionally include the phrase “Trigger Warning” in my online posts when suggesting an abuse-related article to my readers. Perhaps you have wondered to yourself, “what is a trigger warning and why do we need them?”.
Before we can discuss what a trigger warning is, we must first understand the term “trigger.”
In this context, a trigger is a scenario, person, place, or thing that reminds a survivor of their abuse and evokes a reaction. Many survivors develop something called “Post Traumatic Stress Disorder” or PTSD. You may have heard of PTSD before, perhaps in reference to a soldier returning from a war zone or disturbing military operation. The soldier may be easily startled, disturbed by loud noises, and plagued by nightmares, anxiety, and depression even after the event is long over.
Survivors of abuse can experience these same types of reactions after a traumatic abuse event. These reactions can be immediate or delayed depending on a variety of factors. Symptoms can include: anxiety, panic attacks, depression, waking and sleeping flashbacks of the event, avoidance, being easily startled, angry outbursts, feeling nervous, difficulty remembering exact details surrounding parts of the abuse, depression and negativity, guilt, and self blame. (1)
This reaction could be mild or severe, from a slight discomfort to a full-on panic attack, depending on the individual or the timing in which the trigger occurs. The reaction is involuntary and often catches the survivor off guard. A perfectly nice day can be completely disrupted by an unexpected trigger.
A trigger warning (2) is like a flashing warning light, intended to thoughtfully warn those who are vulnerable to triggers. It alerts the abuse survivor that the content of an article, video, or conversation may be triggering to them. Depending on how they feel in the moment, the survivor can choose to change courses and avoid the possible trigger or approach it cautiously with intention instead of being painfully surprised.
Trigger warnings are a way to put the power and control back in the survivors hands so they can make choices for themselves about self-care and healing.
Trigger warnings are not an attempt to be overdramatic or an indication of an overly sensitive millennial generation, they are a kind attempt to care for the hurting among us.
Question: Do you, as a survivor, find trigger warnings helpful, why or why not?
(1) Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Symptoms- The Mayo Clinic
Understanding Why A Victim’s Story May Change- Rachel Williams Jordan
(2) “Trigger Warning: a stated warning that the content of a text, video, etc., may upset or offend some people, especially those who have previously experienced a related trauma: a blog post with a trigger warning for rape.”- Dictionary.com