Mental Health Triggers

A mental health trigger is something that causes or exacerbates symptoms of mental health conditions.

Understanding Mental Health Triggers 

When an individual is suffering from a mental health condition or has a history with a mental health issue, there are many stimuli, both internal and external, which can be triggers.

These vary from person to person, and can range from one’s own feelings to loud noises, particular sights or situations or physical changes.

It is important to recognise and understand triggers, as these can elicit strong emotional or physical reactions from people affected, such as heavy breathing, crying or harmful thoughts.

Identifying triggers for a mental health condition one has been diagnosed with is vital, as is learning to avoid triggers for those around you, such as coworkers, family and friends, helping create more inclusive and safe environments.

Developing a better understanding of triggers can also help spot signs that something may be wrong with one’s mental health, and that seeking the help of a healthcare professional may be necessary.

Learning to cope with triggers may be challenging, particularly if a trigger cannot be entirely avoided in one’s day-to-day life. Treatment such as medication or therapy may be effective in reducing the impact of a trigger, helping individuals identify inaccurate perceptions or beliefs and reframe these in a more positive way.

The list below outlined some of the most common mental health triggers

  • Sounds, smells, textures, images and tastes – anything that can be experienced with our senses could trigger a reaction, often due to a past negative experience. 

  • Specific actions, circumstances or things – for some, there may be actions, objects or circumstances that bring on mental health illness symptoms. An example of this is a specific situation which causes a panic or anxiety attack, such as driving over bridges or being in a high place. Someone with an eating disorder may be triggered in a situation such as a meal out with friends, leading to increased anxiety and fear. 

  • Physical symptoms – chest pain may trigger an anxiety attack in someone suffering from hypochondriasis, and symptoms of a long-term physical illness could cause conditions such as depression to arise or worsen. 

  • External circumstances – losing your job or experiencing financial troubles, trauma, discrimination, abuse or bereavement could trigger a mental health condition. 

  • Substance abuse – abusing substances such as drugs or alcohol may trigger symptoms of a mental illness or aggravate existing symptoms.

If you or someone you know is struggling with a mental health condition or suicidal thoughts and is in need of immediate help, there are resources available: https://www.nhs.uk/mental-health/feelings-symptoms-behaviours/behaviours/help-for-suicidal-thoughts/

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If you are struggling to cope with specific mental health triggers, help is available.

Mental health services and urgent help are available through the NHS and local mental health charities and services