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.

If you need support

You should always tell someone about the things you’re worried about. You can tell a friend, parent, guardian, teacher or another trusted adult. If you're struggling with your mental health, going to your GP can be a good place to start to find help. Your GP can let you know what support is available to you, suggest different types of treatment and offer regular check-ups to see how you’re doing.

If you're in need of in-the-moment support you can contact Shout 85258. It's a free, 24/7 text messenger support service for anyone in the UK. Text the word “SHOUT” to 85258 to start a conversation.

There are more links to helpful organisations on BBC Action Line.

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