If you have lived in this world in the last few years, you have heard of trigger warnings. These warnings are intended to alert a reader/watcher/listener of an upcoming topic that could cause a flashback or other PTSD related response. They are often used in cases of rape and other violent acts. Some argue they have been overused, while others feel they are an important tool.
A lot of people will colloquially use this term to describe something that upsets them in day to day life – something that brings a strong negative emotion but is not necessarily related to a past trauma. I am not writing this to talk about or weigh in on the use of trigger warnings or it’s evolving meaning. I do want to bring awareness of the term, however, in relation to my topic today; distressing events.
Some people would refer to distressing events as triggering events; I had a hard time coming up with a term to describe today’s topic, because I kept thinking of triggering events; however, these events are not due to a past trauma. I think everyone, with or without a mental illness and/or major past trauma experiences distress in situations specific to them.
For example, I don’t do well with loud noises. I become very anxious and angry when my neighbor has a loud party (I’m sure he hates me because I yell at them every time – he’s moving now and the owner is selling the house rather than renting to more loud college students, thank god). My husband has to hang pictures, etc. when I am not home because the sound of the hammer hitting the nail creates anxiety for me. I try to avoid loud sounds, especially those that are erratic or unexpected.
My husband does not do well when domestic violence is depicted in movies or tv shows. No one should support this violence, but it disturbs him more than it does many people. He does not have a history in which domestic violence, or any violence, is present. It is not triggering a past trauma, but it is still distressing for him.
Knowing what events we find distressing is important for everyone, by being aware we can better prepare or protect ourselves. I think it’s safe to say that most people have things that they consistently find distressing; some are easier to deal with and prepare for than others. What do you find distressing? Let me know in the comments.