A trauma trigger is an experience that causes someone to recall a previous traumatic memory, although the trigger itself need not be frightening or traumatic and can be indirectly or superficially reminiscent an earlier traumatic incident. Trauma triggers are related to posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a condition in which people often cannot control the recurrence of emotional or physical symptoms, or of repressed memory. Triggers can be subtle and difficult to anticipate, and can sometimes exacerbate PTSD. A trauma trigger may also be referred to as a trauma stimulus or a trauma stressor.
The first step in helping trauma survivors to begin the healing process involves establishing a safe environment, in particular, an environment in which the person does not feel threatened with recurrence of the original trauma, and also feels safe from encountering situations that will trigger the memory of the original trauma. Because traumatic memories are stored differently in the brain from non-traumatic memories, their recurrence is often difficult or impossible for the survivor to predict or control. Creating a living condition in which a survivor feels protected from trauma and from people or situations that will trigger traumatic memory enables the survivor to begin the healing process, in which survivors integrate their dissociated traumatic experience into acknowledged memory and are able to reconnect with their surroundings.
Because of the realistic portrayal of graphic violence in visual media, sufferers may encounter lifelike trauma triggers while watching movies or television.
Trigger warnings are warnings that a work contains writing, images, or concepts which could act as a trauma trigger. The term and concept originated on the Internet and then spread to other areas, such as print media and university courses.
In an interview about trigger warnings for The Daily Telegraph, Professor Metin Basoglu, a psychologist internationally recognised for his trauma research, said that "instead of encouraging a culture of avoidance, [the media] should be encouraging exposure. Most trauma survivors avoid situations that remind them of the experience. Avoidance means helplessness and helplessness means depression. That's not good." Richard J. McNally, a Professor of Psychology at Harvard University, wrote in the Pacific Standard that "trigger warnings are designed to help survivors avoid reminders of their trauma, thereby preventing emotional discomfort. Yet avoidance reinforces PTSD. Conversely, systematic exposure to triggers and the memories they provoke is the most effective means of overcoming the disorder." McNally's article cites several academic studies of PTSD sufferers in support of these claims.
Frank Furedi, an emeritus Professor of Sociology at the University of Kent, describes trigger warnings as a form of narcissism. Furedi argues that trigger warnings have less to do with the content of a book or work of art than with individual students asserting their own importance.
Now that trigger warnings have appeared in other media, Jay Caspian Kang, best known for his sports writing at Grantland, accused these warnings of "reducing a work of literature to its ugliest plot points".
A blog post published by the BBC even suggested that trigger warnings could be triggers, if these warnings alone are sufficient reminders of past traumatic events.
In higher education
Students at UC Santa Barbara passed a resolution in support of mandatory trigger warnings for classes that could contain potentially upsetting material. Professors would be required to alert students of such material and allow them to skip classes that could make them feel uncomfortable.
The American Association of University Professors has issued a report critical of trigger warnings in university contexts, stating that "The presumption that students need to be protected rather than challenged in a classroom is at once infantilizing and anti-intellectual." Angus Johnston, a history professor at the City University of New York, said that trigger warnings can be a part of "sound pedagogy," noting that students encountering potentially triggering material are "coming to it as whole people with a wide range of experiences, and that the journey we're going on together may at times be painful. It's not coddling them to acknowledge that. In fact, it's just the opposite."
|Look up Appendix:Glossary of traumatology in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.|
- Acute stress reaction
- Emotional dysregulation
- Flashback (psychology)
- Repressed memory
- Survivor guilt
- The Triggering
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