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Sites that Help You Avoid Triggers in Movies, TV Shows
Stop here before you watch—these websites can be helpful for survivors of trauma
- May 16, 2022
Have you ever been watching a movie when one of the characters angrily slams a door and you feel your chest tighten? Maybe your heart speeds up and your palms begin to sweat and, meanwhile, the person next to you is calmly munching on popcorn. If you wonder why that sound sent you into the throes of a panic attack, the answer is that it could have been a trigger.
In your past, someone may have scared you by slamming a door in an aggressive or threatening way, leaving a lasting imprint in your mind. When your mind heard that sound again, you were transported back to that time.
A content warning is a verbal or written disclaimer that precedes potentially triggering images, describing what will be shown that could negatively affect those watching or listening. However, they’re not required and not all media will include content warnings. That’s why watching movies and TV shows can be anxiety-inducing for some trauma survivors—they’re not sure what triggers will be shown.
But thanks to a handful of extreme movie and TV enthusiasts, several websites have been created that categorize any possible triggers in hundreds of movies and TV shows.
What Is a Trigger?
One of the unfortunate hallmarks of surviving trauma are triggers that can stick around indefinitely, popping up like uninvited guests at the most inconvenient times. A trigger can be any sort of stimulus that causes a person to remember a typically negative emotion from their past.
Triggers come in many forms, but experts categorize them as internal triggers (like a thought, feeling, memory, emotion or bodily sensation) and external triggers (like a situation, people, locations, conversations or an observation).
For survivors of domestic violence or abuse, many things can be triggers, but here are a few examples:
- Certain sounds, such as yelling, glass breaking, a door slamming.
- Witnessing a couple arguing.
- Sights from locations where they were attacked—as minute as a tile or fabric pattern.
- The smell of an attacker’s cologne or perfume.
- A specific color, pattern or style of clothing that their abuser often wore.
- The taste of blood in the mouth.
- The close proximity of another person, especially a male.
- Touch from another person, such as a hug, a pat on the back or placing a hand on someone’s arm. (Read about ways to hug a survivor that don’t trigger fear.)
- Questions or comments made innocently enough by someone else, that a survivor’s controlling abuser used to make, such as “What did you do today?” or “Who are you talking to on the phone?”
- Anniversaries of dates specific to the couple.
- A news report about domestic violence
- Seeing someone who resembles an attacker.
We can’t avoid triggers all the time, but if you want to try and avoid some of your specific triggers while watching movies and TV shows, consider checking out one of these websites:
DoestheDogDie.com. Using crowdsourcing (aka, everyone can contribute their findings), more than 80 categories of triggers are tracked throughout TV shows, movies and books. Search the title of what you’re viewing or reading, or search for your trigger, and get a list of what to avoid. For example, are there snakes in the Disney movie “Moana”? No, but a viewer lets you know that similar creatures, eels, do make an appearance.
UnconsentingMedia.org. Search by titles of TV shows or movies to find a checklist of which specifically sexual violent triggers that are shown or avoided.
HealingHonestly.com. A list of shows and movies one author compiled that contain common triggers for trauma survivors, such as sexual assault or suicide attempts. She also gives recommendations for shows that she says have no sexual violence.
Trigger Warning Database on Tumblr. This is another crowdsourced discussion of shows and movies and what triggers they contain. However, it doesn’t look like it’s been updated in a few years, but still helpful to scroll through.
Common Sense Media. Not a trigger-specific website, however, still helpful. Created for parents to review media their children might watch, it could help anyone get a heads-up on what potentially triggering content is included in an array of all-ages movies, TV shows, books, apps, video games and websites. Parents of children who have been through trauma may especially find this beneficial.
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Do You Need to Avoid Triggers?
Avoiding triggers isn’t always going to be possible. You can’t skip a certain date on a calendar or avoid ever hearing a door slam again. A better option would be to figure out how to prepare for when these triggers happen and to then manage your reaction the best you can.
In “Stop a Flashback in Its Tracks,” therapist Kristine Seitz, LSW, says grounding techniques can help survivors when a trigger causes anxiety or panic. By using one of these techniques, your mind can focus on something other than taking you back to that traumatic memory.
- Visualization (picture your “happy place”)
- Doing something physical like exercise or yard work
- Singing or reading aloud from a book
- Taking a walk and counting the trees or street signs
- Making a list of positives in your life
- Holding onto or wearing something comforting like a friend’s sweatshirt
- Writing down your feelings
- Breathing intentionally—inhale for a count of three, hold for three, exhale for three and hold for three
- Taking a warm bath or shower
- Plucking a rubber band against your skin
- Changing positions to remind yourself you are in control of your body
- “Listing,” or creating lists in your head, such as foods that begin with each letter of the alphabet or the states in alphabetical order
- Petting an animal
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