If you’ve been on the Internet for any amount of time, chances are you have encountered the word “triggered,” or have seen a “trigger warning.” It became a meme, but as many things often unfortunately do, it was then turned into a disqualifying phrase. To say someone has been “triggered” has been synonymous with calling someone overemotional, their responses overdone, and designating what they have to say as less-than because they responded in a certain way. It has also been used to mean someone strongly disagrees with a stance. I have seen this most often used against the discussion of social issues, namely feminism. Because of course, “overemotional” responses can be disqualified as valid right out of the gate, right?
As someone who has struggled with mental illness–as well as someone who has known sufferers of mental illnesses–I started using this word about six or seven years ago, and it wasn’t meant to disqualify a position or a person. Me and other sufferers I’ve known have used it to alert someone to our mental state, which could mean the difference between a good mental day and a bad mental day. It could even go unsaid verbally, but there would often be clear nonverbal signals that let other people know, “I’m not okay.” Likewise, “trigger warnings” have been used to alert people with certain stressors to avoid content in order to not experience undesired symptoms.
But don’t just take my word for it. Let’s take a look around, shall we?