What is a Trigger?

 The dictionary will define this as: anything, as an act or event, that serves as a stimulus and initiates or precipitates a reaction or series of reactions.
Pulling the trigger on a gun causes the release of a bullet. Hitting a button on a machine sets it into motion.
For someone with BPD anything number of things can set of and emotional chain reaction. Something big or something done as an afterthought can be emotionally triggering. It all depends on your deeper afflictions.
For someone that self harms it might be pictures of wounds or scars, a preferred knife, the departure of a friend and a return to loneliness, some criticism thoughtlessly given making the person feel worthless, deserving of punishment.
For someone that is eating disordered it might be a picture in a magazine, hanging out with a friend that has a more idealized figure, indulging in a treat that was off limits, a comment made about how someone else is lovely {in a way they don’t feel about themselves}.
Whatever the thing is, a trigger is something that initiates a series of destructive thoughts or tendencies; whether it is a simple demeaning thought, or a spiral down into self perpetuating cycles of destruction. The trigger may be innocuous but the result can be emotionally devastating. Setting off feelings of not being in control. Something that creates a need to control themselves, mentally correct a loss of control in some situation. Harsh reminders that they are not good enough, that they could be better, different. Leading to punishment in order to regain a sense of purpose, focus, and control towards becoming the more idealized picture of themselves that they hold.
Whether the thought is acted on is almost irrelevant. If something provokes an internal response, that thing is a trigger.
Tripping a trigger is not anyone’s fault (unless they happen to know what someone’s particular triggers are and push them intentionally). It’s not even the person suffering with BPDs fault. Even people without BPD have triggers. It’s a symptom of a larger problem and it’s very common. It’s almost impossible to avoid them completely but there is hope. 
It’s important to recognize what your personal triggers are. Recognition allows you to step back and begin to process rationally. From here there are a couple things you can do. First, once you understand what causes particular responses, you can learn to avoid situations that create these problems.  At the least you can let those around you know that these things are hurtful to you and ask them to be mindful. Second, even if you can’t avoid all situations you can recognize that the trigger is not healthy, irrational, and begin to work through it in a constructive manner. Once you know what triggers, it is possible to look for alternative means of dealing with it. For example, instead of going to a restaurant which may cause binging and then purging, it is possible to preemptively ask for smaller portions and make plans to exercise.  Be proactive in a way that is not harmful.
Learning what triggers you is important for taking care of you.

2 comments on “What is a Trigger?

  1. That's a good take on it. Like something that provides a means to indulge the depression, 'justifying' it. It becomes a cycle for me once it starts, a depressing event, leading to more depression. It can be very hard to break the thought process of giving it legitimacy. That's definitely something I need to work on, am working on.

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