Are Trigger Warnings Important? // Discussion

This post was originally meant to go up a couple weeks ago, but due to the amount of research and time I wanted to put into it, I had to postpone a little bit! I’m really sorry about that, but I hope that this post was informative and useful in some way. Feel free to leave any comments sharing your personal experiences, or correct anything I say if it is wrong! I want this to be as correct as possible.

I recently came across a tweet that said that trigger warnings in books are unnecessary and that they are “spoilers.”

I was stunned when I saw this because I thought that this debate was over a long time ago. Personally, I do not have any triggers that would prevent me from reading a book, but I still find the value in including them. I want to dive deeper into this topic and explain why they are important.

Aside from my personal beliefs, I also read actual research to support my claims like I stated earlier, and at the end of this post I will have a list of some of the sites that I read- both for and against the use of them.

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What is a trigger warning?

A trigger warning is a statement at the beginning of a book, tv-show, movie, etc. that lists some of the potential “triggers,” or sensitive topics covered in the media, that could be harmful to the viewer. This is especially important for trauma survivors and those with PTSD.

What is the value?

Some researchers stated that trigger warnings could be harmful to those with PTSD in the long run because it causes them to avoid those traumas, rather than dealing with them. However, no research has been done with actual trauma survivors to determine whether trigger warnings are helpful or counterproductive.

It is not a healthy coping mechanism to avoid triggers.

That is not what I am trying to say in this post. If you suffer from PTSD, I urge you to seek help and go through the treatment process. 

However, what we do know, is that trigger warnings can be helpful if someone is just recovering from trauma, and can not yet be exposed to those triggers without severe mental strain. Also, if someone is experiencing a time of poor mental health, they can know to avoid certain media if it will be triggering for them.

Additionally, these content warnings do not necessarily cause someone to avoid the trigger; Instead, it may allow them to prepare mentally for them, rather than catching them off guard and causing a panic attack.

But what if I get spoiled by a trigger warning?

First, trigger warnings are not spoilers. Trust me. Just by looking up a review or reading the description of a book or movie, you’ll probably find the topic mentioned.

Also, trigger warnings are general enough that they are more or less themes featured in the books, not plot points.

If you are someone who doesn’t like to know anything about a book or movie before going in, then just skip the trigger warnings.

You may find them unnecessary, but that does not mean that they are not necessary for someone else. Keep that in mind when you see a content warning of some kind. If you don’t see the point, that is because they are not meant for you.

Research and Resources:

Psychology Today Article

Time Article

NYT Article– Read the comments of this one as well!!

PTSD Counseling Resources

chat with me

I hope that you found this post at least somewhat helpful. Once again, feel free to correct me if I said anything wrong in the comments. This post is meant to be informative, so I want to make sure the information is as accurate as possible.

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10 thoughts on “Are Trigger Warnings Important? // Discussion

  1. Great post!

    I include content warnings at the beginning of every chapter of my web serials, and the reader response has only ever been positive. Also, the editors of an anthology I was included decided to add a content/trigger warning list at the beginning of the book. It’s super helpful for those who need it and easy to skip for those who don’t.

    Like you said, content/trigger warnings aren’t spoilers. They’re also really easy to include without compromising the integrity of a book/document’s design and/or narrative. The only people I’ve seen really push back on including warnings are people who stubbornly refuse to adapt, which is disappointing (and, in my opinion, juvenile). Being sensitive to your readers’ experience costs exactly $0.

    Even for people who don’t suffer from PTSD, being given a heads-up on potentially troubling content can significantly improve their experience with a book. I can think of a few times I’ve read something that really disturbed me. Had I been given even a vague indication that the stories included some of this content (i.e. rape, torture, body horror) I could have at least braced myself for it, and it would have only improved my appreciation for the work.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for your comment! I agree with everything you said completely. Luckily, most people are accepting of trigger warnings, and it is becoming much more common to see them included. It is great to see that you, yourself include them as well :) Like you said, it doesn’t cost anything to include them and potentially help someone avoid a trigger!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I include trigger warnings or content warnings at the beginning of any of my posts that include potentially triggering content.

    When I lost my wife 2 years ago, most of the time the only way for me to be aware of potentially triggering content before watching movies/reading books was to have a friend preview it for me. Making content warnings commonplace would make lives easier not just for those with PTSD, but also those who have suffered a recent loss or are just not in a place to deal with a difficult subject.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I like a trigger warning in the Blurb so I know when to read the book. Some books with abuse I can’t read on vulnerable days when I am already down, it just makes me feel more depressed. Hence I want trigger warnings..

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I think for me, I can right some pretty sensitive things, and on occasion, my stories are just pretty gruesome, so I leave warnings. I think for me, I think it’s important, because my mom has a movie-style memory, I know that there are people like her who can’t watch/read more gory style things, and yelling really makes her uncomfortable. I also know it sometimes bugs me, because I feel like with the warning, less people read my story who would enjoy it, but also, I’m not wanting to write to upset people.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I agree with you that trigger warnings are so, so important, personally they allow me to know what I’m getting into and to pick up a book dealing with certain triggering topics when I’m really in a good place mentally to handle them. Without book bloggers mentioning triggers in their reviews, this would be so, so difficult and to be honest, this would make my reading experience so different. I’m happy trigger warnings are put out there and I wish they were everywhere. :)

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I actually just published a post on content warnings about half an hour ago.

    For the record, you brought up a lot of interesting and good points, Jessica. I will say, though, that for me and for my friends, it definitely helps to have those warnings, especially on days when we just can’t handle some of the content.

    Here’s my post, by the way, so as to introduce my own viewpoint on the subject: https://blindinjusticeblog.com/2019/03/26/the-case-for-content-warnings/

    Liked by 1 person

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