Understanding And Coping With Emotional Triggers: A Guide

Think of that feeling when you are in the middle of a conversation, and the other person makes a passing comment about something and BAM! You suddenly feel yourself shrink. Or when someone cuts you off in traffic or at the parking spot, and you find yourself yelling at them from behind the wheel. Or when someone cuts off your sentence in the middle or ignores your opinions, you are suddenly hyperventilating and just about to strangle the other person.

Even though all these situations might seem normal and later in the day, you might discover how unjustified your reaction was, in that particular moment, you couldn’t look beyond what happened or what someone did to or didn’t do for you. Do you wonder what happened to you?

You got triggered – that’s what happened in those moments. 

Emotional triggers are natural. We all have them. The world is a weirdly scary and big space. Almost all of us have gone through traumatic past experiences which come rushing back to us and affect how we respond to the events in the present. These past events can cause significant pain and discomfort in our everyday lives. 

This is why understanding what emotional triggers are, identifying your personal triggers, and finding ways to cope with them are necessary for your overall well-being. On that note, let us dive deeper into the mechanism and types of emotional triggers and devise practical solutions to deal with them.

emotional triggers

What Are Emotional Triggers?

An emotional trigger is any topic that puts you in discomfort or makes you feel uncomfortable. Emotional triggers are signs that help us understand the parts of our life that we are unsatisfied or stressed about. They vary widely from person to person because we all have distinct life experiences that give rise to diverse triggers.

Emotional triggers could be words, actions, events, memories, or other stimuli that generate an intense emotional response. Triggers can be broadly divided into two types – internal and external triggers.

Internal triggers are the ones that are associated with past unresolved traumatic experiences and memories. For instance, some who have experienced certain painful events in the past might be triggered by a specific smell or noise that reminds them of that event.

External triggers are ones attached to current situations and events associated with a specific person or place. For instance, someone can get triggered by a certain tone of voice or statement that reminds them of hurt or disappointment from the past.

Signs Of Getting Emotionally Triggered

The human mind and body are not separate entities. They are a combined package like the Olsen Twins. Therefore, when you are emotionally triggered, it manifests through physical symptoms. The physical signs of getting emotionally triggered include the following: 

  • increased heart rate,
  • stomach problems,
  • feeling sick or dizzy,
  • sweating profusely,
  • muscle tensions,
  • hot flushes,
  • chest pain or discomfort, or
  • feelings of detachment or dissociation from reality.

How To Deal With Emotional Triggers?

1. Identify And Understand Your Triggers.

The first step in dealing with emotional triggers is understanding them. Identifying your triggers is important because without having an understanding of what evokes an intense emotional response from you, you will never be able to take control of your state of mind. Therefore the more aware you become, the less likely you will be at the mercy of the emotional turmoil within you. 

In order to identify your emotional triggers, follow these steps:

1. Notice when your body begins to react differently. Moore often than not, the time you realize that you have been emotionally triggered, it is too late. Therefore, try to understand the signs that occurred before the intense emotions took over. The goal is to take control of those symptoms eventually.

2. Understand the outside factors that contribute to your reaction. 

3. Notice what emotional needs are not being met within you. Emotional triggers are often the starting signs of bigger internal issues. This step will help you understand the actual issues.

Read more: Release Pent-Up Emotions – 3 Emotional Catharsis Techniques

2. Accept your emotions.

Most of the time, when we have intense emotions, we start feeling guilty about them. We often blame ourselves for having these emotions. The key here is to accept these emotions. It is okay to feel angry, scared, vulnerable, and angry. All you have to try is not to let these emotions overtake you. 

3. Whenever you feel triggered, try to connect back to the present. 

When we feel emotionally triggered, we often lose touch with reality. Our flight or fight response kicks in, and we feel like we are no longer here. In these moments, reminding yourself that you are safe and trying to ground yourself can help you reconnect with the present moment. 

Grounding techniques like the 5-4-3-2-1 method, which includes naming five things you can see, four that you can touch, three that you can hear, two that you can smell, and one that you can taste, are helpful.

4. Seek professional support.

Understanding and dealing with your emotional triggers can be an excruciating and overwhelming journey. It can often get lonely, and that this why finding help from a trusted professional is a great option. If you feel that your emotional triggers significantly hamper your daily life, seeking timely help is important. 

Read more: Best Online Therapy Platforms


Emotional triggers are uncomfortable words, memories, events, actions, or other stimuli that cause intense emotional reactions from people. They can stem from unresolved turmoils or traumatic life events. Dealing with triggers begins with understanding and identifying them at the very beginning. 

Apart from this, keeping a check on your emotional well-being is essential in managing your triggers. To read more about good emotional well-being habits, click here.

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