The following was written by an online acquaintance, a psychologist who wishes to remain anonymous.
Triggering is what happens to someone who has a severe traumatic event in their past and has developed PTSD as a result of it. PTSD traumas must involve sexual or physical assault and must be severe in nature, with potential for loss of life or limb.
A key facet of ‘trauma’ as considered within the context of PTSD is that it must be related to a specific event or series of events, and must involve a situation that not just provokes anxiety or despair, but actual, imminent fear. This is a crucial condition for the development of PTSD. There must be a period of outright terror associated with the event, although it may occur after the event (such as after the adrenaline wears off in a firefight).
Reminders, even unconscious reminders, of the events in question, lead to a ‘triggering’ event which can result in either a flashback (a vivid almost ‘waking dream’ of the past event that they individual struggles to differentiate from active reality), or increased sympathetic reactivity, often experienced as panic, rage, or irritability.
For instance, a car backfiring can ‘trigger’ someone with PTSD from gun violence (war or otherwise). Being in an enclosed place or seeing someone who vaguely resembles an assaulter (physical or sexual) can also result in ‘triggering’.
Misogyny, sexism, words without an implied or actual threat of violence against the individual, are definitionally not triggering.
People who do use ‘trigger’ to indicate that someone made them feel bad are in fact some of the biggest ‘shitlords’ to ever walk the planet as they are ‘privileged’ enough to not have gone through serious enough trauma to understand what it means to fear for your life.
Furthermore these people are making a mockery of the process of recovery from PTSD, which is in fact not only possible, but probable. Through their profligate and dramatic overuse of the concept of ‘triggering’ they both make light of the severity of the condition and imply that it is something that cannot be conquered.