A trigger can be overwhelming and incredibly personal depending on your experiences. Triggers can cause you to recall and revisit past trauma. The trauma can be a result of anything from a life-threatening event to sexual assault or emotional abuse.

You could encounter an unexpected sound, smell, or sight that could set off flashbacks and make you feel unsafe or threatened.

“I think understanding the cause is so important because the triggers are entirely related to what caused them in the first place. Although the abuse itself happened more than a decade ago, I still experience trauma when triggered. I am absolutely terrified of loud or sudden noises which make me palpitate (best case) or give me panic attacks (worst case). There were two major ‘incidents’ when he shouted so loudly and physically threatened me that I became paralyzed. The paralysis lasted for a few hours each time because I was literally incapacitated from fright. Although I never experienced this after I left him, I still physically cannot process loud male voices. The terror manifests less physically but more emotionally now. I ‘shut down’ and cannot process anything for a while.” (India, 2018)

It can feel like . . .

Any reminder of the traumatic experience could work as a trigger and it might be difficult for you to recognise what could cause the trigger. Even hearing about a similar experience can create an intense psychological and emotional response.

“My symptoms are a tight chest, increased heartbeat, shallow breathing, and a sensation of immediate danger. I feel the sensation of an overwhelming force behind me, and don’t feel safe in my environment. I feel as if at any moment I might be harmed. My mind races, I get hot, I sweat. I can’t focus on anything, including work. All that occupies my mind is the need to run away, shout at the top of my lungs, and bring my sense of control back before the imagined danger closes in and destroys me. It’s as if I’m being starved of the feeling of being safe and secure”

Taken from Quora

Triggers are usually unexpected and could be anything from what you hear, experience, or see that could bring up a memory. You may experience sadness, fear, agitation, irritability, or other emotional responses in the situation. If you feel triggered, you should try to leave the situation and go to a “safe” place.


Disclaimer: This guide has not been put together by mental health professionals. It is not intended to be medical advice. It has been crowdsourced by survivors and volunteers of Chayn. Care has been taken in reflecting the experiences and knowledge of people around the world, including therapists but information in this guide should be taken instead of certified medical advice. Please seek professional support.

Getting better & moving on: A guide for mental healing after abuse and trauma by CHAYN is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.