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  • Writer's pictureJackie Windham

Identifying Emotional Triggers and What They Mean

Have you ever had an instance where you are in a great mood until you encounter something—or someone—that makes you react emotionally? Perhaps it is a reminder of a traumatic event that happened in the past, or maybe it is an object that makes you feel irrationally upset. These are called emotional triggers, and they can be extremely challenging to cope with on a daily basis.

If you are wondering what your emotional triggers might be and hoping to learn how to deal with these triggers, continue to read on for more information. Identifying emotional triggers can make a huge difference in keeping you mentally well even in the most stressful of situations.



Emotional triggers stem from many different factors and they affect people in a variety of ways. What’s important to note is that emotional triggers are unique to each person. These triggers can be influenced by past experiences, current mental health symptoms, substance use, and even global issues like the COVID-19 pandemic.

Simply put, emotional triggers are events, things, experiences, or potentially even people who cause the mind and body to react. These reactions present themselves differently depending on the type of emotional trigger. Let’s examine the types of emotional triggers below:


1. Anxiety Triggers


The symptoms of anxiety triggers are best defined by feelings of worry, discomfort, and unease. When somebody has moments of anxiety or, in more severe cases, full anxiety disorders, they might have moments of peace that are interrupted by different emotional triggers.

Anxiety triggers can be chronic, meaning that they reappear often. For example, somebody might have a fear of water. Most of the time, they are able to manage this fear because they can remind themselves that they are safe. However, being near water at a beach or pool party could be an anxiety trigger. Or talking to someone on the phone could trigger feelings of anxiety. Though these are only examples, they show that any situation that causes extreme stress could potentially be an anxiety trigger.


2. Anger Triggers


With this type of emotional trigger, the reaction that occurs as a result of the trigger usually comes out as anger or frustration. Many times, anger triggers leave people feeling out of control—they might find that their heart starts pounding and their breathing becomes more shallow. Additionally, anger triggers can cause outbursts of profanity, threats of violence, yelling, and other aggressive behaviors.

These emotional triggers lead some people to lash out at the ones that they love or even at themselves. There are also factors that can make anger triggers more intense and harder to control, like using drugs or alcohol. Anger triggers are especially important to identify and treat because acting on violent impulses could put you in serious danger.


3. Trauma Triggers


For people who struggle with post-traumatic stress disorder, trauma triggers are often reminders of the harmful event that they went through. Trauma triggers are particularly common with survivors of abuse as well as people who have dangerous occupations, like veterans of the United States.

There are characteristics of trauma triggers that differentiate them from other types of emotional triggers. For starters, people with post-traumatic stress disorder frequently avoid anything that could be a trigger. For some people, this means avoiding all crowded spaces or any environment with loud noises. But trauma triggers also often come from dreams, memories, and flashbacks, which are unexpected and unwelcome to the people who experience them.

Additionally, trauma triggers can cause the mind and body to relive the traumatic experience. As a result, trauma triggers might cause physical symptoms such as shaking, vomiting, or hyperventilating.


4. Other Mental Health Triggers


In addition to the emotional triggers listed above, there are many other things that trigger people depending on their own experiences and mental health needs. Some other psychological triggers include:

  • Grief

  • Poor sleep

  • Chronic pain

  • Relationship troubles

  • Abuse

  • Loud noises

  • Unexpected events

  • Social gatherings

This emotional triggers list is not extensive, meaning that it only gives a glimpse into the types of mental health triggers that you might be struggling to identify, regulate, and recover from.


Learn How to Deal With Triggers


The first step in learning how to deal with triggers is to be aware of the emotions you experience in response to something. Emotional triggers often arise from the five senses, so be aware of the things that you feel, hear, smell, taste, and touch, as these could lead to an emotional or behavioral response.

Some people use a journal to keep track of their emotional and behavioral responses. Other people practice mindfulness to stay grounded in the present moment. With mindfulness techniques, the goal is to recognize when something might be an emotional trigger. Then, you can prepare yourself to respond in a way that keeps you and others around you safe.

Perhaps most importantly, if you are looking to learn how to deal with triggers, the most effective method is to receive professional mental health treatment. As we learned earlier, emotional triggers can vary significantly and they only become harder to cope with when there are underlying mental health conditions such as anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, phobias, mood disorders, and more.


Find Treatment for Emotional Triggers


At Baton Rouge Behavioral Hospital, you will have the support you need to begin identifying your own emotional triggers. From there, you can begin to work on your mental health with services such as:

  • Inpatient treatment

  • Group therapy

  • Recreational therapy

  • Medication management

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)

If you are wondering how to cope with emotional triggers so that they no longer interrupt your happiness, give us a call at 225-230-2490 or complete a confidential contact form for more information. With the right type of treatment, you can begin to work with your emotions rather than fighting against them.

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