Trigger warnings – are they helpful or hurtful?
How many times have you listened to a podcast or watched a tv show and there was a trigger warning notification that played before the episode? Was the trigger warning helpful? Or was the prompt hurtful? Either way the trigger warning caught your attention and made you more aware of what was coming up.
It can be argued that an advantage to these trigger warnings is that they give those a chance to mentally prepare themselves before engaging in a potentially triggering situation. Researchers have found that triggers are perceived as more distressing when they come as a surprise, so the warning can prevent this from happening. Therefore, promoting a safe environment for those with mental health issues such as PTSD.
However, to every advantage there is a disadvantage. It can be argued that the major downside to trigger warnings is that they can reinforce avoidance behaviors. By doing this, the person avoids all triggers, therefore maintaining the symptoms of PTSD or other mental health illnesses for the long term.
It should be noted here that emotions that arise from triggers, especially those that interfere with a person’s life, should be dealt with through therapy or in other positive coping ways.