Thursday, 5 December 2013


So, I mentioned the term 'trigger' during my little rant about winter the other day... But what does it mean exactly?
Below is the Google definition (always an accurate source :p), for both the noun and verb forms. In each case the second definition is the most relevant one. In terms of mental health specifically then, a trigger can be seen as anything which precipitates a particular set of thoughts, feelings, behaviours, or more commonly a combination of all three.

It is a concept that appears frequently in cognitive behavioural therapy, when emphasis is put on recognising patterns ok thought and behaviour. Tools such as behaviour logs- where 'undesirable behaviours' are noted alongside factors such as thoughts, feelings, location, activities in which you were engaged at the time etc- are often used for this. In this way they hope to find connections and recurring patterns which can then be examined and changed.

Some triggers are very overt and easily seen from an outside perspective. An eating disordered patient being triggered by a very underweight individual, for example. Most triggers tend to be less blatant however. The same individual may find themselves triggered by a place in which they previously suffered harm- the consequent on rush of feelings and memories may lead them to seek comfort in their eating disordered behaviours.

A person may be aware of the trigger for a particular behaviour after, or even during the event, though not always- and knowing why is not always enough to stop the resultant behaviour. Often it is easier to recognise in others than in oneself, distance allows for clearer analysis and people may find they share triggers with other people. Having said this triggers are very personal, built up of things that have been learnt over an individuals lifetime, and it's unlikely two people would share all the same ones.

All patterns start somewhere, and the same is true for trigger-response. From the blatantly obvious to the totally obscure they all start with a grain of logic. Which brings me to the whole point of this random little lecture: sometimes the behaviour of individuals with mental health conditions seems totally irrational but it's worth trying to understand. It's rare for human beings to do anything entirely at random... and even if you can't change things sometimes just acceptance and the knowledge that someone else 'gets' it is enough. Finally, someone may ask you to stop doing or saying something that to you seems silly or unimportant. It's worth remembering that though it may seem meaningless to you it could hold a huge significance to them. They may be willing to explain or it may be too complicated or too personal to talk about at that time but try to trust them :) (Erm within reason :-S).

End waffle :p. X