10 Things You Should Never Say To Someone Who Experiences Triggers

Understanding triggers and learning sensitive communication are crucial to showing support for the trauma survivors you love.

People of all walks of life with real triggers and PTSD RODNAE Productions, blanscape, AndreyPopov | Canva

The realm of mental health is complex and nuanced, and among the conditions that mystify many is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, also known as PTSD.

Often wrongly associated exclusively with war veterans, this mental health disorder can affect anyone who has experienced severe trauma.

Whether you or someone you love is navigating the maze of PTSD, understanding triggers and learning sensitive communication is crucial. After all, there are a few things people commonly say to people experiencing PTSD symptoms that can be hurtful, which I will share in the list below. 


RELATED: 5 Rare Signs You're Suffering From PTSD

Understanding the intricacies of PTSD

PTSD is a condition that can occur following the experience of a traumatic event. This could range from combat situations to natural disasters, abusive relationships, severe accidents, or even work-related trauma. Despite stereotypes insisting that the only men with PTSD are combat veterans, PTSD due to other traumas can happen to anyone, regardless of gender.


People with PTSD may experience symptoms such as flashbacks, nightmares, anxiety attacks, or uncontrollable thoughts related to the trauma.

Not all flashbacks or triggers can be predicted

The challenge and complexity lies in the fact PTSD triggers — seemingly benign occurrences —c an suddenly catapult someone back into the emotional terror of their past experience in an instant. This creates a cascade of physical symptoms such as excessive sweating, shortness of breath, and brain fog, to name a few. The person can be left incapacitated for a period of time. These “flashback” episodes last a few minutes to hours at a time.

What triggers PTSD?

With PTSD, triggers can vary widely between individuals. A trigger could be a smell, sound, or even a word that evokes memories of the traumatic experience. Sometimes, these triggers are obvious. For example, a car accident survivor might get anxious when hearing the sound of screeching tires. At other times, the triggers can be less discernible and make them challenging to avoid or anticipate.

If you have a loved one or friend who is challenged with PTSD, learning how to communicate with them effectively requires understanding and empathy.


RELATED: 8 Common Symptoms Of PTSD That Can Affect Anyone

Here are 10 things you should never say to someone who experiences triggers.

1. "Just get over it."

This minimizes their struggle and implies weakness.

2. "That wasn’t so bad, was it?"

This can Invalidate their feelings and experience as if it were trivial.

3. "You're being too sensitive."

Insensitivity on your part can stigmatize their emotional responses.

4. "Why can't you just forget about it?"

This simplifies a complex mental health condition and can cause further damage.

5. "I know exactly how you feel."

This kind of comment presumes to understand their unique suffering.

6. "At least you're still alive."

This fails to recognize and neglects the emotional scars left behind by their experience.


7. "Stop living in the past."

Callous remarks ignore the uncontrollable nature of triggers.

8. "You need to move on."

Everyone’s journey is unique. This simplifies and disregards the psychological difficulty of 'moving on'.

9. "It happened to me too, and I’m fine."

Establishing harmful comparisons is rarely helpful to the person who is triggered.

10. "You’re just seeking attention."

These harmful words accuse them of manipulating their condition for sympathy.

These comments can serve as triggers themselves and cause further emotional pain. Avoiding them and finding other ways to compassionately support the person triggered can make a significant difference in your interactions with someone who has PTSD.


RELATED: 7 Things You Should Never Say To Someone With PTSD

Hope and healing are possible for PTSD

PTSD is not something a person chooses. It is the result of past experiences caught in the body’s nervous system. With support, these fears and traumas can be released.

While understanding triggers is essential, so is seeking professional help. Treatment options may include medication, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), coaching, hypnotherapy, and other forms of psychological intervention designed for trauma recovery.

Navigating PTSD is challenging for both the sufferer and their support network. Sensitivity, empathy, and knowledgeable communication can go a long way in making this journey more manageable.


If you or someone you know is struggling with PTSD or experiencing suicidal thoughts, it's vital to seek immediate help. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available 24/7 at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255).

Remember, mental health is a critical component of everyone’s overall well-being. There is no shame in seeking professional guidance to help you or someone you know get the support needed to live your best life.

(Note: The information provided in this article is intended for educational purposes and should not be considered as medical or therapeutic advice.)

Having experienced a severe case of corporate PTSD myself, my hope is this article offers some valuable insights into the challenges of dealing with PTSD and the importance of sensitive communication.


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Michele Molitor, CPCC, C-Hyp (Your Mind Detective), is a certified coach and hypnotherapist, and co-author of the best-selling book, Breakthrough Healing.