A trauma trigger is an experience that triggers a traumatic memory in someone who has experienced trauma. A trigger is thus a troubling reminder of a traumatic event, although the trigger itself need not be frightening or traumatic.
Triggers can be quite diverse, appearing in the form of individual people, places, noises, images, smells, tastes, emotions, animals, films, scenes within films, dates of the year, tones of voice, body positions, bodily sensations, weather conditions, time factors, or combinations thereof. Triggers can be subtle and difficult to anticipate, and can sometimes exacerbate post-traumatic stress disorder, a condition in which trauma survivors cannot control the recurrence of emotional or physical symptoms, or of repressed memory. A trauma trigger may also be referred to as a trauma stimulus or a trauma stressor.
The first step in helping trauma survivors begin the healing process involves establishing a safe environment, in particular, an environment in which the survivor does not feel threatened with recurrence of the original trauma, and also feels safe from encountering situations that will trigger the memory of the original trauma. Because traumatic memories are stored differently in the brain, their recurrence is often difficult or impossible for the survivor to control. Creating a living condition in which a survivor feels protected from trauma and from people or situations that will trigger traumatic memory enables the survivor to begin the healing process, in which survivors integrate their dissociated traumatic experience into acknowledged memory and are able to reconnect with their surroundings.
Film and other visual media represent a unique form of trauma trigger. Because of the increasingly realistic portrayal of graphic violence in visual media, trauma survivors encounter life-like trauma triggers while watching movies or television. Moreover, these trigger scenes can be difficult to anticipate during the course of a film, and therefore can be difficult for a trauma survivor to avoid; by the time the viewer is aware of the content of the scene, a traumatic memory may already be triggered. Even if a survivor can anticipate a trigger, having the presence of mind to leave during a film can be difficult, and leaving may cause embarrassment and even stigma. Trauma in film and other visual media represent an area in which cultural sensitization and support may reduce stigma for trauma survivors and help in the healing process.
- Flashback (psychological phenomenon)
- Posttraumatic stress disorder
- Acute stress reaction
- Glossary of trauma terms
- Emotional dysregulation
- Survivor syndrome
- Repressed memory
- ↑ Post Traumatic Stress Disorders in Rape Survivors. 
- ↑ Schneider.
- ↑ Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, A Real Illness. 
- ↑ Herman, 37, 42.
- ↑ Fagan and Freme.
- ↑ Herman, 155.
- ↑ Yehuda, 110-112.
- ↑ Herman, 159-174.
- ↑ Ephron.
- ↑ Phillips. As evidenced in the following article, in which most people report leaving during only 1-2 movies in their entire life.
- ↑ Matheson. In this instance, a man ends a relationship with his girlfriend for leaving a movie after a scene of graphic violence.
- Ephron, Dan (2006-10-01). "Battlefield flashbacks". Newsweek. http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_kmnew/is_200610/ai_n16942632. Retrieved 2007-12-20.
- Fagan, Nancy; Kathleen Freme (2004). "Confronting posttraumatic stress disorder". Nursing (Findarticle.com) (Feb 2004). http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qa3689/is_200402/ai_n9386332/pg_1. Retrieved 2007-12-20.
- Herman, Judith Lewis, MD (1992). Trauma and Recovery. BasicBooks, A Division of HarperCollins Publishers. ISBN 0-465-0876-5.
- Matheson, Whitney (2002-06-07). "Have you ever walked out of a movie?". USA Today. http://www.usatoday.com/life/columnist/candy/2002/2002-06-12-candy-question.htm. Retrieved 2007-12-20.
- Phillips, Michael (2007-07-05). "If a film made you flee, here's your ticket to deride". Chicago Tribune. http://featuresblogs.chicagotribune.com/talking_pictures/2007/07/if-a-film-made-.html. Retrieved 2007-12-20.
- "Post Traumatic Stress Disorders in Rape Survivors". http://www.survive.org.uk/PTSD.html. Retrieved 2007-12-13.
- Schneider, Stephen (2002). "Slasher Movies". St. James Encyclopedia of Popular Culture (Gale Group). http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_g1epc/is_tov/ai_2419101116. Retrieved 2007-12-20.
- Yehuda, Rachel (2002-01-10). "Post-traumatic stress disorder". N Engl J Med 346 (2).