What does ‘triggering’ mean?

It’s normal to feel sad when we see or read about something upsetting – and thanks to social media, we’re all exposed to hundreds of potentially distressing news stories every day.

Experiencing empathy (understanding how someone else might be feeling, particularly when something bad happens) is completely human but it’s not the same as being triggered.

In the audio below, Dr Radha from Radio 1's Life Hacks explains that:

A trigger is something that reminds you of a traumatic experience that you may have had in the past.

Being triggered can feel almost like you’re revisiting that experience and going through the same thoughts and emotions as you did at the time. These feelings can be very overwhelming and distressing.

Listen to Dr Radha as she explains more about triggering and what to do if you experience it.

The takeaway advice Dr Radha gives is:

Don’t be alone with your feelings or thoughts if they’re overwhelming.

The key is to talk. If you feel any negative, overwhelming emotions, such as panic or anxiety, you should always:

  • Let an adult you trust know how you’re feeling
  • Get professional support. This could be your GP, who might then refer you on to a specialist.

If you don’t feel like you have anyone to speak to, charities like The Samaritans, Young Minds and Mind all have helplines you can call. They also have lots of advice about other mental health conditions and how you can look after yourself.

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