Inclusive Language: Triggers and Content Warnings

As part of our Inclusive Language Series, we are introducing some terms and resources for you to learn more about this semester in an effort to create more inclusive communities. This week’s term(s) are Triggers and Content Warnings.

You may have previously heard a friend or someone you know say the following: “I’m Triggered by this” or have seen “CW” or “Content Warning” before a social media post. But what do they mean?

The term ‘triggered’ can be used to describe someone who is “provoked by a stimulus that awakens or worsens the symptoms of a traumatic event or mental health condition”. When someone experiences trauma, the surrounding sensory stimuli is stored in our brain within our memory. When these stimuli are experienced in the future, the brain may reactivate these feelings. For example, if someone got into a bad car accident while listening to a certain song, that song could become a future trigger for that individual who must relive that trauma. It is important to note that everyone experiences trauma differently and might be affected in different ways.

While triggers are unique to each person, some common examples include holiday or anniversary of the trauma or loss; certain sounds, sights, smells, or tastes related to the trauma; loud voices or yelling; loud noises; arguments; being ridiculed or judged; breakup of a relationship; violence in the news; sexual harassment or unwanted touching; physical illness or injury; among others.

Content warnings, or trigger warnings are designed “to warn trauma survivors about potentially disturbing content”; and while was initially used when working with survivors, are now often used in many contexts including social media. This allows for readers to know what to expect, and if necessary to avoid the post.

Part of being inclusive and welcoming is understanding that not everyone has the same life experiences as yourself. If you are in a group, creating a school project, or posting to your story; including content warnings are an easy way to show your peers, friends, and others that you care about them. By doing this simple act, you can help someone from unnecessarily having to relive trauma.


Reference: What Are Triggers, and How Do They Form?


Upcoming Holidays & Observances

  • February 5th: Lantern Festival, the first significant feast after the Chinese New Year; participants enjoy watching paper lanterns illuminate the sky on the night of the event.