What Does Being Triggered Really Mean?

When you live with an anxiety disorder, a strong part of your life is spent wondering if you are being triggered and how to deal with it.

Why is this important with anxiety disorder? Because the nervous system has become overly sensitive to stimulus, aka triggers, and will react strongly to keep you from danger, real or perceived.

Life with anxiety disorder is hard enough. But knowing when you are being triggered can help you heal and conquer anxiety in the future.

This post will guide you through the basics of being triggered, a real example of being triggered, and a few steps to conquer anxiety after being triggered.

The Signs Of Being Triggered &Amp; 3 Ways To Conquer Anxiety In Your Life

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What does being triggered mean?

As a woman living with PTSD, nothing gets me more riled up than someone saying they are triggered when they mean offended.

Here is the truth about triggers. It is our core response to our traumatic experiences.

Triggers result from being reminded of pain and memories from the past that resulted from trauma. Triggers are not being offended or being sensitive.

Being triggered is a reaction to stimulus that reminds you of traumatic experiences and puts you back in an unsafe mindset. You cannot control it. Logic does not drive it. It's pure impulse, or rather, lack of it regarding control of your body and actions.

This mindset is your body and mind trying to survive a stressor.

Being triggered can result in:

  • Physical responses: elevated heart rate, elevated blood pressure, shortness of breath, panic attacks, nightmares, sweating, feeling faint or dizzy, mood changes, muscle tension, stomach issues, etc.
  • Emotional and mental responses: feelings of danger, needing to fight, needing to run away, inability to deal with situation, losing control of your emotional response, avoidance, replaying conversations, intrusive thoughts, quick changes in mood, flashbacks to the trauma, nightmares about the emotions felt, sadness, isolation, etc.
Eggs Crying And Screaming Over A Broken Friend- Example Of Being Triggered.

Example of Being Triggered

This is a story about a recent triggered event for me, and while I have muted it down for our readers, it still brings up verbal conflict and talks briefly about my past abuse.

The Problem

Recently, I posted a notice about a wandering dog that had shown up on my doorstep. Normally, I would walk this pup back down the street, but I was having high heart rate and high blood pressure and didn't feel up to the task.

The dog had defecated, peed, and was very distressed on the porch; barking and scratching at the door to be allowed inside.

In the neighborhood Facebook group, I posted a notice with a photo of the dog saying, please come grab your pup, I cannot do it today. I couldn't remember who the owner was, so I couldn't look them up for a Facebook message.

I didn't mention the poop or pee, but noted that he was keen to get back inside. I only asked the owner to come take their dog home.

When The Anxiety Took Control

The owner of the dog did not take it well and attacked me on Facebook.

If you know me, you know I love animals. You know I will do anything to keep an animal safe and happy. When this owner attacked me with hateful comments, I was really taken aback and hurt.

We met once for 5 minutes when I had caught her dog a few years ago, in my yard. And we hadn't spoken since.

But yet, she said horrible things about me.

My trauma immediately kicked into high gear. My brain started looking for ways to resolve the conflict, even though I had meant no malice at all.

I apologized, publicly for posting the notice about her dog being distressed. Again and again.

Each response from her got another apology from me. Trying to calm her so I could once again feel safe. -In my past, yelling and conflict were the indicators that bad things were about to happen: violence, verbal, or physical abuse.-

Was posting a pic and asking the dog to be picked up wrong?

Maybe I should have forced myself to walk door to door to find the dog's owner in 10 degree weather while battling dizziness, fatigue, and nausea?

Perhaps I should have opened the door and allowed a very upset dog into my home with my 3 barking, snarling dogs who were trying to protect me from this 10 lb furry intruder?

Should I have just taken him to the local vet or animal control and have the owner pay fines to get him back?

My head raced with “should haves”.

So when this woman would not back down, my body completely lost it. My heart rate and blood pressure quickly climbed and my vision grew dark, while my brain was wildly trying to create a safe space for me.

That's when the panic attack started.

I was lying on the floor crying, trying to feel safe, waiting for her to walk down the street and pound on my door to issue my punishment.

My nervous system was in full alert mode.

Fighting Back Against Being Triggered

I knew there was no real threat of violence to myself, but my body remembered my past. And it was prepping for battle.

And it needed me to take action. I tried my best to engage in activities to get rid of my restless energy, but my flight response had been triggered and the only way for me to feel safe again was to put distance between myself and my attacker.

So, I did what soothes me best: I packed up, and I ran.

I took an impromptu self care vacation, left the state for a week, left the Facebook group, blocked the person, and turned off all my devices.

Within 3 hours, I had packed and left my home because I felt unsafe.

The entire drive, I replayed the conversation in my mind and wondered what was so wrong about me.

  • Was I so damaged that I couldn't even return a dog the right way?
  • Was I so broken that I just needed to leave society?
  • Was there somewhere that I would ever feel calm, loved and safe around other people (not including my family & support system)?
  • Why couldn't I see the warning signs?There were none, btw.-
  • Why couldn't I just let it go like everyone else?

*If you didn't notice, all those above thoughts were irrational.*

Why I Was Being Triggered

Then it hit me. This is my core trauma opening up again. Any time I feel unsafe, my body and brain go into flight mode to protect myself from potential harm.

For me, I learned that conflict meant danger. Even small conflict. I was always wrong, the other person is always right. If I fight back, I'm going to get hurt, emotionally or physically. Sometimes, the other person abandoned me and isolated me, hit me, or locked me away until I apologized.

While I can manage smaller stressors, my core wound is feeling unsafe, and that is my trigger.

How You React To Core Triggers

You may react to trauma by fighting, freezing, or completely shutting down. We cannot help our response to trauma. All we can do is work to manage it.

Being triggered means losing control over our actions because we have reopened our core wounds.

What Is Being Triggered- Anxiety Word Jumble

How to Stop Being Triggered

Consult Medical Professionals

Psychiatric Treatment

Let's face it. Sometimes you just need a doctor to help you get your body back under control. If being triggered has left you with a multitude of symptoms, medication may help you get a break.

A doctor helps rule out other medical conditions. Because in a life with anxiety disorder, “what if” is a scary thought.

Seeing your doctor can help you when your symptoms flare back up before they ruin your life.

Therapy

If medication is a short term solution for being triggered, therapy is the long term solution.

Therapy adds the logic back to your irrational thoughts.

It answers your questions about how your anxiety works and why you respond the way you do. Therapy helps you fill in the gaps and answer your question, “Am I broken?”

I'll give you a hint- No, sweetie, you're not. You're responding to trauma.

Consulting With Medical Professionals Help You Learn Coping Strategies- What Is Being Triggered?

Self Reflection

Self reflection is where most “AH HA” moments happen!

In my article: Positive Thinking Exercises: A Complete Guide for Positivity; I give you two examples about how I break down my trauma to my emotional triggers.

Knowing why helps you reorient to how you can take care of yourself in the future.

Journal For Self Reflection After Being Triggered- What Is Being Triggered?

Self Care

The perfect self care plan is the one that works for you!

When I am triggered now, I whip out my self care kit and get to work. Everything in my self care kit has been curated for the symptoms I experience when being triggered.

Whether you are like me, and you need to get away to relax, like to dive into hobbies to distract yourself, or you like to pamper yourself with your favorite self care products; there is no one size fits all approach to self care.

Examples of self care:

What Is Being Triggered- How To Heal

Final Thoughts on Being Triggered

What we learned about being triggered:

  • “Being Triggered” is a psychological response to remembering your core wound.
  • Being triggered results in physical and mental symptoms.
  • Being triggered can take you right back to a mindset you had when you felt vulnerable.
  • To Manage Being Triggered, you may need a combination of psychiatric help, therapy, self reflection, & self care.
What Is Being Triggered &Amp; How To Conquer It

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Krystian Howe
Krystian Howehttps://withloveandfluffs.com
Hi! I'm Krystian. The Creator of With Love, Me. I created this blog for others like myself: people living with anxiety disorder on a daily basis. I have been living with anxiety since my teens. This blog is to give you a how to guide for living with anxiety, because I sure didn't have one. I want to save you the pain and misery I had of figuring it out all on my own. Join me and my service dog Koda on the journey to help you manage your anxiety. See you on the blog and our socials!
Krystian Howe
Hi! I'm Krystian. The Creator of With Love, Me. I created this blog for others like myself: people living with anxiety disorder on a daily basis. I have been living with anxiety since my teens. This blog is to give you a how to guide for living with anxiety, because I sure didn't have one. I want to save you the pain and misery I had of figuring it out all on my own. Join me and my service dog Koda on the journey to help you manage your anxiety. See you on the blog and our socials!
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  1. I love how you highlighted the value of self-reflection. I think in today’s world, we don’t get quiet and still enough to allow for self-reflection. I know from my own experience that the best revelations and discoveries have come when I’ve spent time journaling with the intention of self-reflection. I loved this post, so helpful!

  2. Thank you for sharing such a thoughtful post! I am so sorry that your neighbor responded so poorly to you for just trying to help. I sometimes wonder if people would be so cruel if they knew just how damaging their actions were. In cases of extreme meanness, I often wonder what sort of trauma that person might have endured for them to respond so hatefully. But it still doesn’t make it right. We can never fully know how our actions will affect others, but I’m a firm believer that kindness is never the wrong answer. It takes a lot of courage to share such deeply personal stories and experiences. But in doing so, you’re helping so many people in understanding and recognizing their own triggers so that they can begin to heal and grow. Thank you again for sharing!

  3. First, you did exactly what you needed to do, which was notifying the dog’s owner where her pet was. She behaved poorly. We are never responsible for other people’s reactions, but in the moment, it’s easy to feel responsible. All we can do is deal with our own responses. And you’ve provided some great solutions to help do that very thing! Kudos!

    • Thank you for you kind words. It’s nice to hear. I always try to remember when dealing with others that we never know what they are going through. And while she wasn’t kind to me, I tried to be kind back to her even in the face of being shouted at.

  4. My blog focuses on my mental health and sharing my journey with cross contamination OCD. But to this day it feels like know hardly anything about it. Just what I’ve experienced so far. This couldn’t be more helpful for me and everyone else that suffers from anxiety! Thank you so much for sharing!

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