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Anxiety Triggers

What do I mean by triggers when it comes to anxiety?

A trigger is an experience that makes your anxiety worse or more widespread. It brings out the anxiety. For instance, seeing a man that reminds you of an aggressive bully or a particular scent that reminds you of a negative experience.

A trigger is different to the cause of anxiety, which is something that created your anxiety to be a part of you. The cause of anxiety might include genetics or your environment (how you were brought up). Another predisposition to anxiety is personality, including perfectionists, people with low self-esteem, those who are shy or reserved or those who wish to control everything in their lives. Some other causes could be physical health problems, ongoing stressful events at work, milestones, other mental health conditions, and substance abuse issues.

To manage your triggers, you need first to identify that you are being triggered. Your brain has essentially created an association between an experience and the first symptoms of anxiety, including dizziness, sweating, nausea, heart palpitations, and shortness of breath. When you are triggered, the brain is pairing it with a negative experience from the past. In turn, you develop symptoms that you struggle to control.

How can you create new associations so that you are no longer triggered?

Let’s say you associate anxiety with large crowds in shopping centres. You experience debilitating symptoms and tell yourself that you won’t be able to cope in the centre and that you’ll easily be triggered. You created a negative association between shopping centres and symptoms of anxiety as something had occurred initially to create the anxiety in the first place.

You identify your trigger in the shopping centre, which is the first step.

Then you create new associations. For instance, you can focus on moments or experiences when you enjoyed walking amongst the crowds in the shopping centre. You concentrate on those positive, engaging, and joyous moments and start to feel relaxed and positive about shopping centres. Your mind takes you back to that experience, and you replace shopping centres/crowds with new memories, new associations, leading to reduced anxiety, or none at all. You’ve done it!!

Generally speaking, a trigger is an event that creates the debilitating symptoms of anxiety or aggravates it. The cause of anxiety comprises some factors, including genetics, upbringing, personality, low self-esteem, physical conditions, losses, and so on.

You can learn to identify when you’re being triggered and then build new associations to solve the problem of anxiety. You’re creating new memories and remind yourself of your past successes. Good luck!!