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'Triggering' Materials Does Not Increase Distress Or PTSD

By Patricia Y. Sanchez writing for PsyPost


From the article,

Trigger warnings, which are statements intended to warn people about being exposed to potentially upsetting material, have garnered much debate as to their effectiveness at protecting people from emotional distress. New research published in PLos ONE suggests that reading about triggering traumatic material did not result in an increase in trauma symptoms in both people who did and people who did not have PTSD symptoms. Results show most participants (over 96%) opted to read the triggering passage even if they had exposure to traumatic events or scored high on the PTSD checklist. Those higher on the PTSD checklist experienced more emotional responses to the trigger passage than those with lower scores. Further, participants in the trigger passage condition reported feeling significantly more distressed than those in the control condition, but only on the first day of the study. This difference was not seen in the later measurements indicating the distress was not long-lasting. Results also show that trauma type was important in that those who had also experienced trauma related to assault reported more PTSD symptoms in the first two days of the study compared to the other participant groups.

The authors mention several limitations of this research such as using written material only and the overall small sample size.


Read the full article at PsyPost