Are Trigger Warnings a Big Deal?
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One of the hardest things that comes with being diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder is the negative feedback you receive from others. Not from the PTSD, but from ‘trigger warnings’. It’s not something I’ve personally dealt with, but it’s something I’ve noticed in the media, online, and once even in public. The past few months have been quite difficult for people who deal with ‘triggers’. So, should we really take these “trigger warnings” seriously, or should we just brush it off?
When I talk about these things, I’m talking about the people who really deal with PTSD and from triggers, not the people who romanticize a mental illness that they don’t have, or make up something they can live by without getting a panic attack. I’m talking about when a war veteran hears fireworks and a flashback of a traumatic event in the war triggers him, or when a sexual assault victim walks in the same alley they were violated in and they suddenly can’t catch their breath, or when someone who used to drink or use drugs sees a character on tv do exactly what they used to do, which could trigger a panic attack. That is what PTSD is, a mental illness. Trigger warnings are to keep people dealing with PTSD safe from flashbacks and panic attacks. They are not for the people who can’t look at the color “orange” because they hate the color, or hear the word “bird” because you saw a dead bird on the road when you were at the park 5 years ago.
Yes, trigger warnings should be taken seriously. If one asks to not use a word, show a scene from a movie in class, or even look at a picture of anything that can harm you mentally and physically because you suffer from post traumatic stress disorder, then it’s fine. Warning people of potential triggers is a great idea. But trigger warnings do way more than this. They warn of sensitive material, as per their primary function.
I’ve read things in books that have made me sick, things I can never un-read or un-see. The worst part is, it’s great real-life training for being in the world. Because the terrible things never stop. Look at the Internet! One minute you learn about another set of parents caught starving their own children; the next, college kids are returning $40k they found in a thrift store couch to an old lady. But that does not give me the right to take something that does no harm to me whatsoever and make it out as something that “triggers” me deeply.
For the ones who are actually dealing with post traumatic stress disorder, I will gladly be passionate to protect you or censor what is damaging to you because it can make a world of difference to the folks who are already struggling. It’s so easy, and yet it can be the difference between a decent day and a day ridden with panic and dysfunction. You can continue to joke about it, but for the ones who take the word “censor” and “trigger” and just throw them around for no reason, please remember that you are harming the chances of a person with PTSD or people who really deal with triggers to be taken seriously, whether it be a teacher, a co-worker, a significant other, basically anyone. Please keep this in mind.