Mental health is vital to our overall well-being, and understanding the triggers that can lead to potential crises is crucial. Stressful events can be coped with more easily by some people than others; consider the impact that such events might have on those with mental illnesses. In this blog post, we will explore various mental health triggers, their impact on mental health, and effective strategies to avoid potential crises.
Understanding mental health triggers
Triggers are events, experiences, or circumstances that can significantly impact mental health. They can vary from person to person and may include stressful situations, traumatic events, relationship conflicts, or even certain environments. Recognizing these triggers is the first step towards effectively managing one’s mental health.
Types of mental health triggers
It is common for past experiences to strongly influence a trigger, and a wide range of stimuli can be possible triggers.
External triggers: An external trigger can be a sound, a sight, a smell, or a texture that elicits a reaction based on past experiences. For example, grief can be triggered when smelling a deceased loved one’s cologne.
Internal triggers: An internal trigger is a strong feeling triggered by past experiences. In the case of making an appointment with a doctor after a negative medical experience, fear can trigger the appointment.
Trauma triggers: Feelings that are triggered by past trauma. For example, war veterans may be traumatized by the sound of firecrackers.
Symptom triggers: These include physical changes that can lead to larger mental health problems. For example, sleep deprivation can trigger bipolar disorder symptoms.
Examples of Triggers
The following are a few common triggers, but by no means an exhaustive list:
- Trauma or loss-related holiday or anniversary
- Sounds, sights, smells, and tastes associated with trauma
- Yelling or loud voices
- Noises that are loud
- Judgment or ridicule
- Being rejected
- Relationship breakup
- News stories about violence
- Unwanted touching or sexual harassment
- A physical injury or illness
Identifying Personal Triggers
Each individual’s triggers are unique, and it is essential to identify and understand our own triggers. Engaging in self-reflection and keeping a journal can be helpful in recognizing patterns and identifying specific triggers that lead to emotional distress or potential crises.
Taking the time to try to understand our triggers can help us to take the necessary steps to prevent them. Seeking professional help can also be beneficial if you need additional support. Developing coping strategies and self-care routines can also help to reduce our risk of developing crises.
Triggers don’t always result from trauma
There are some individuals who do not develop residual trauma or triggers after experiencing something potentially traumatic. Considering this, some people doubt triggers’ legitimacy.
Traumatic experiences can affect people in a variety of ways. Due to a range of factors, two people may experience similar traumas but respond to them differently due to:
- Age at the time of the traumatic event
- Conditions related to mental health
- Family history
- Having access to a support system
- Beliefs or cultural practices
An explanation of how triggers are formed
Triggers are not yet fully understood by mental health professionals. According to some researchers, traumatic memories are stored differently in the brain than non-traumatic memories.
Upon being triggered, the brain might interpret past traumatic events as occurring now. In this way, the body experiences symptoms similar to what it experienced as a result of the original trauma (such as the fight-or-flight response).
When a trigger occurs, a person may feel upset before they realize why. There is often a connection between triggers and a powerful sensory experience (a sight, sound, taste, or smell) or a deeply ingrained habit. For example, a person who has a fear of heights may feel overwhelmed and anxious whenever they drive over a bridge.
Recognizing Early Warning Signs
Once triggers are identified, it becomes crucial to recognize the early warning signs that indicate a potential mental health crisis. These signs may include changes in sleep patterns, increased irritability, difficulty concentrating, or withdrawal from social activities. By being mindful of these signs, we can take proactive steps to prevent a crisis from escalating.
Taking the time to talk and show support to a person who is showing warning signs can help to reduce their stress levels. Professional help may also be necessary in some cases. Early intervention is key to helping someone manage mental health issues.
Developing Coping Strategies
Creating a personalized toolbox of coping strategies is vital in managing triggers and preventing mental health crises. These strategies may include practicing mindfulness, engaging in regular physical exercise, seeking support from loved ones or professionals, or utilizing relaxation techniques such as deep breathing or meditation. Experimenting with different strategies can help individuals find what works best for them.
Developing a sense of resilience and self-efficacy also helps individuals cope with triggers and build their mental health. It is important to remember that coping strategies should be used consistently in order to be effective.
Building a Support Network
Having a strong support network is crucial for maintaining good mental health. Surrounding yourself with understanding and empathetic individuals can provide a sense of safety and support during challenging times. Whether it’s friends, family, or support groups, having people who can offer a listening ear or lend a helping hand can make a significant difference in navigating triggers and potential crises.
Identifying triggers and actively working towards avoiding potential mental health crises is a continuous journey. By understanding personal triggers, recognizing early warning signs, developing coping strategies, and building a support network, individuals can take proactive steps to prioritize their mental well-being. Remember, seeking professional help is always an option, and there is no shame in reaching out for support when needed.
If you are looking for professional help, find a qualified mental health provider via our directory at LGBTQ and ALL.