October 11, 2020

I’m tired of seeing people belittle or outright dismiss the concept of triggers, as if war veterans were the only people to legitimately experience aspects of PTSD.

A trigger, in the PTSD sense, is any event that suddenly and uncontrollably brings back an unbearable memory with full force. It especially applies to seemingly minor events, ones that wouldn’t trouble someone without such a memory. The memory could be of abuse, pain, terror, or another strong negative emotion – stronger than our ability to handle at that moment.

A “trigger warning” is a gentle offer to consider what we can handle, rather than surprising us with it against our consent. It’s sometimes called a “content warning” or “content note,” or it may be subtly woven into the opening sentence, to avoid mockery from those who misunderstand its purpose.

I’ve never experienced torture, but one effect of my autism is a very low tolerance for pain of any kind. Torture scenes bring back all my memories of pain, and magnify them, so I greatly appreciate warnings that help me avoid that.

I’m grateful to writers and producers who trust that my triggers are not just an excuse to avoid truth. I’m grateful when they provide info that helps me decide what to read or watch. Likewise, I’m committed to trusting others who tell me what triggers them, even if it seems trivial to me.

P.S. I write from my personal experience as an autistic. What I share is not a substitute for advice from an autistic medical professional. Also, some of my opinions have changed since I first wrote them.