True Terrors of Trigger Words


Created by Lauren Johnson

Individuals request trigger warnings to avoid words that will trigger a tragic experience.

Trigger words can be seen as cues for many to feel stressed, anxious and panicked at the thought of hearing the specific word(s) that makes them feel this way. Trigger words can keep many from handling information, due to the words. 

The definition of a “trigger word” can be seen as a word that can make an individual have strong emotions upon hearing/seeing the word, as well as relating to it by a traumatic event or a trigger memory.

Many individuals have at least one word that can make them feel uncomfortable, panicked or trigger their anxiety at the thought of hearing/seeing it. Many students, in general, will have at least one point in time where something major can develop anxiety for them.

“I first found out that I have trigger words by a friend pointing it out to me,” one student said. “She noticed that I started to breath faster and have slight shortness of breath.”

As many can describe that trigger words can cause different impacts on them that can affect their daily life, many people still have a hard time dealing with them.

On the internet, there is potential for anyone to post whatever they want, which could include triggers for some. Those who post art, or stories, have put trigger warnings before the story starts.

There is more than one way to interpret the message this graph conveys. On

I tell people who use those words to stop, I watch for trigger warnings before watching or reading certain things,

— Anonymous Student

Based on people who post items online, they would put the trigger warnings for their own volition, not from a student’s request or an administrative policy.

For those who developed trigger words, these individuals can attempt to avoid these words by looking for trigger warnings and finding coping methods. However, students who have not experienced a significant traumatic experience, are requesting trigger warnings to avoid uncomfortable content

“I don’t have many trigger words (if any at all), so when trying to avoid them, I just stress to my friends that they should not use them around me and try not to bring the topic around others,” one student said.

For finding ways to cope, identifying what causes these specific types of thoughts or feelings can limit the occurrence or impact it has.

Trigger words can affect everyone differently, because upon hearing/seeing the words people react in a variety of ways. Many will quickly want to find a distraction to get rid of it. Finding multiple coping methods that will make it go away immediately can help.

“I surround myself with people so I’m forced to pretend to be calm and eventually calm down,” one student said. “If that doesn’t work, I hide away and do something I enjoy to distract me.”

When hearing a trigger word in public, some might convince themselves that they are calm and try to distract themselves.

Many go every day by receiving different types of news, because after receiving tragic news, trigger words could be used. However, in everyday talk, many will not encounter the trigger words in basic conversation. 

“I try to stay cautious, for many reasons other than these trigger words,” one student said. “Some of them are rarer words, so I know they won’t normally come up in conversation.”

Based on conversations, caution is key for those who start to discuss topics that could include their trigger words(s).

Upon hearing trigger words, many could describe that once they hear the word, it is hard to get rid of. While as in conversations, they want the trigger word to fly past them. 

“I try not to think about it because once I do, it’s an ongoing cycle of trying to figure out how to keep it from happening,” one student said. 

Upon hearing a trigger word, it is difficult to quickly get rid of, but finding a coping method can make it go away quicker. 

On a daily basis, different types of news can be interpreted from one person to another. Based upon news that can be heard, certain news such as tragic news could contain a specific trigger word that can make someone feel anxious.

“I get stressed about hearing a certain topic because not everyone knows that I have those triggers so people set me off unknowingly,” one student said. “I don’t like to correct people so most of the time my friends have to help by telling people to not talk about that around me.”

In conversations, many people might not know that the person they are talking to has trigger word and they could accidentally say one.

There are many individuals who have had a traumatic experience, and some experience trigger words that can still affect them even after the experience. Knowing someone’s trigger words can help them not feel anxious.