An Open Letter to Those Who Make Triggered Jokes

Content Warning: Mention of anxiety disorders, trauma, PTSD, and strong language

You’re not funny.

It’s not “quirky” or “cool” to claim that someone is “triggered” when all they’re doing is calling you out on your bigotry.

Because of shitty jokes like these, people who are actually mentally ill are beginning to be afraid to tell even their therapists that they have triggers in fear of not being taken seriously. As a legitimate side effect of mental illnesses like anxiety disorders and PTSD, not being able to be open with a therapist is extremely dangerous. To those of you who continue making triggered jokes: fuck you.

Fuck you for putting these people in real danger just to be funny for your friends. Triggers are not something to be reduced to a joke. A trigger is “a stimulus such as a smell, sound, or sight that triggers feelings of trauma.” The exact effects of a trigger differ per person, but in my own experience I can explain it like this: triggers give me some of the most severe panic attacks I’ve ever experienced. Admittedly, this is coming from someone who is relatively “high-functioning” in their anxiety so my panic attacks are usually completely hidden when I’m in public. But when triggered, I can’t hide it anymore. I shake, I cry, I meltdown; there is no other way to put it other than I truly cannot function to any degree when triggered. I know others who have the same experience as well as people who have more severe reactions such as relapsing into self-harming practices or disordered eating behaviors. 

With such adverse effects, it’s a mystery to me how triggers are so trivialized by neurotypical people. There is this perception that people who say they have triggers are just exaggerating for attention; this couldn’t be any farther away from the truth. Triggers are not something to be joked about, and they’re not a cry for help. They’re a signal that someone needs help in dealing with a traumatic experience; or perhaps that a person has received the help they needed but still struggle with their triggers, which is absolutely valid as well.

Triggers are something that deserve to be treated seriously, absolutely 100% of the time with no exceptions. Reducing these to a joke has horrible effects on people who actually struggle with them, and these people deserve to be able to talk about their experiences in a safe environment. To those of you who will continue making these jokes despite what you’ve just read: fuck you for continuing to perpetrate this stigma that puts so many people in danger.

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