Are trigger warnings important?

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Hey, lovelies! I’m here with a rather serious discussion – we’re going to talk about trigger warnings and why it’s more important than we might think to add them in our posts and videos and so on.

I’ll start by giving you a brief definition of what a trigger warning is :

a statement at the start of a piece of writing, video, etc. alerting the reader or viewer to the fact that it contains potentially distressing material. (via dictionary.com)
In other words, you’re warning your audience about different sensitive topics that might cause them harm/distress. In our little community, that usually relates to topics that might have been present in the book you’re reviewing, these topics can range from sexual assault, violence, self-harm to racism, homophobia, transphobia and so many more.

Now you might wonder what should you include as a trigger warning? Well, my advice is to be as emphatic as possible and to try to think beyond your own experience. Some things might not disturb you while they have the potential to cause serious harm to someone else because they might have experienced it before and reading about that brings them back to a very dark place, which could be avoided by trigger warnings.

It’s also important to mention if certain disorders are represented in the book, for example eating disorders, because the author might give a detailed account of symptoms, which can be really harmful to people who are in recovery or to the survivors or even to those who suffer from an eating disorder.

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4 Reasons Why Trigger Warnings Are Important

#1 : They help people know what they would be reading about and choose whether they want to read it or not.

#2 : They create a safe space and ensure the well-being of people who went through traumatic events.

#3 : They are essential to avoid relapses.

#4 : They don’t limit the conversation (stop with those harmful and very limited reasons already!!!) – they just help us have a conversation that everyone agreed on having. It’s awful to force a victim of abuse go through a book or conversation on this subject that they are just not ready to talk about. You know nothing about how they feel. I’m sorry to say it, but you don’t. So, let them set their own boundaries and stop trying to do it for them.

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I saw many people argue against trigger warnings because they have the potential to spoil the book. And I’m wondering what’s more important – helping a person who might be triggered by a certain part in a book to avoid reading it or you knowing that the book includes a certain sensitive subject? I never understood how trigger warnings could potentially spoil a book for someone. You don’t know how things will go, what will really happen, you just know that at some point a certain theme will appear in the book – it could be a mention, a discussion or an actual event. But you don’t know what it is. It’s kind of insensitive for you to moan about a non-existent ‘spoiler’ when people get panic attacks over reading those things. PLEASE, we have priorities here, darling. 

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I’ve also seen people complain about how people are too easily triggered these days. I’M ROLLING MY EYES AT YOU IF YOU’RE ONE OF THESE PEOPLE. Look, every person is different and some of us are more sensible than others and we’re all affected by very different things – which is directly related to our life experiences. Try to be understanding. Stop judging people because they were offended by something you weren’t – try to see their perspective or at least be civil about it if you can’t see their point of view.

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I understand that you might miss trigger warnings or you might not always mention them (it happens to me at times and I’m deeply sorry!), but if someone asks you to include them or they say they’ve been triggered by a book, don’t start arguing with them about how it’s not that triggering, it’s disrespectful and dismissing of these people’s trauma. Just think how sometimes when you read a book that focuses on many sensitive subjects, you get overwhelmed even if you haven’t experienced it yourself, now think how it would be for someone who did experience it themselves and now had to  relieve all of it.

I can’t argue enough how important those warnings are. I really wish publishers would include them – or at least don’t try to be misleading with the blurbs – but before they start doing that, we should try to do as good of a job as we can as reviewers.

Be sensitive, listen to others, try to see past your own experiences. I have to say that I didn’t always know the importance of trigger warnings, but reading many reviews where people talked about how they had panic attacks and how much reading about certain subjects harmed them, it just made me so much more aware of how easily it is to somehow help them or other people who could avoid being hurt like this.

So, please, if you feel like a book is very heavy and could potentially harm someone, put some trigger warnings or at least, mention the sensitive subjects in your review. Underline those, write them in bold. Just make them stand out.

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What are your thoughts on this subject? Is there any book that was too much for you?

Did trigger warnings help you avoid a certain book?

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73 thoughts on “Are trigger warnings important?

  1. Jordanne says:

    I absolutely agree with you, just yesterday I responded to a review request that had the warning ‘contains scenes of violence some may find disturbing’ and the mention of sexual and emotional abuse asking for clarification on what these scenes entailed exactly. I don’t mind spoilers and there are some things I don’t want to read about – without that warning the rest of the book sounded so awesome I would have agreed immediately without any idea of the kind of content involved. I think this is important for everyone, particularly in the YA market when readers can be as young as 12 and the themes can far surpass the recommended content for that age.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Marta says:

      Yes, thank you for the example! ❤ I know that some people would really love to know about triggers and not read books with certain subjects and that’s absolutely okay because it’s your mental health and you should put it above anything else. And yes, it’s even more important for young people!!

      Like

    • Marta says:

      That’s human, sometimes we really don’t realise they are there. I also tend to forget to add them sometimes, but I’m working on getting better at that.

      Like

  2. The Girl With All The Books says:

    To me, this is a no brainer. It’s such a simple thing that can lead to positive outcomes, such as people not feeling distressed. How can trigger warnings possible be a bad thing?
    Thank you for posting this. It’s a great way to raise awareness and I’m sure after reading this, bloggers will be more conscious of using trigger warnings. I know I definitely will 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Marta says:

      I know this post will also make me more aware of posting trigger warnings as well 🙈 I know that sometimes we don’t remember them – I tend to talk about them in my review, but I really should start to mention them at the beginning as well. I really hope so and I would love it if publishers would find a way to integrate them too.
      Thank you very much! ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Kathy @ Books & Munches says:

    I honestly relate to both views on triggers – both mentioning them and not mentioning them. Although that’s not because I view some triggers as “less”. Honestly, only the people actually triggered by certain subjects can judge whether it’s an actual trigger or not. It’s sooo personal on what you’ve been through and how you identify as (for example).
    Triggers equaling spoilers is pretty much true in most cases. I just feel like if someone points out that they’re mentioning triggers and you know you’re not triggered by anything: just skip it!

    Personally I have the habit of mentioning “general” triggers like mental illness, racism and abuse flat-out but the more specific ones [for example a specific mental illness that will give away the plot], I put in white so people can decide for themselves whether they want to know what specific illness it’s about. That way I try to find a middle way for both groups of people, really.

    It’s hard sometimes, but in the end I feel triggers are worth mentioning. We just have to be careful in the way we go about it, I guess?

    And a huge YES to publishers mentioning the triggers at the start of a book; that would help a lot of readers TONS.

    Liked by 4 people

    • Marta says:

      Yes, we need to be careful with how we mention them – I usually try to mention no characters and just say something general, I don’t feel like it’s a spoiler if it’s all so vague. But then that’s my take on this. I never minded spoilers all that much 🙈
      I really hope they consider doing that in the near future because it would be sooo great and as you said, it’s a personal choice, if you’re not easily triggered, you can skip. If you know you get triggered for something, you can easily check out the list and see if that subject is on it.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. bwbookreviewers says:

    I’m like Kathy. I related to both arguments, but I come down more on the side that TWs are important, just that they do get blown out of proportion at times. I want them mentioned, but then I think that some people use the word “triggered” to denote being slightly uncomfortable about a hard topic rather than having flashbacks, panic attacks, etc. But, that’s the way that the term has changed in common usage compared to an academic side where I’m coming from more.

    In other words, they’re important and should be included, but that some people don’t use the term how it’s meant. And that’s where I think the argument comes in that people are “too triggered” these days. A lack of understanding on both sides. I’ve had the argument with my conservative grandfather and I know he doesn’t understand it.

    – Caidyn

    Liked by 2 people

    • Marta says:

      I understand where you’re coming from, but then some things might affect others way more than we think. While I was writing this post, I saw a list of examples of trigger warnings and there were some that I would have never thought about. But then again, what makes me slightly uncomfortable might make another person highly uncomfortable, so yeah…
      Ah, yes, I think people from other generations wouldn’t really understand those things mainly because they didn’t seem as open to discuss their issues. I don’t know what’s the case of your grandfather, but my grandmother finds it very strange that someone should admit to feeling even uncomfortable. For them, a situation is what it is.

      Liked by 1 person

      • bwbookreviewers says:

        I agree with you there. Everyone is different. But I’m more referring to people who just use it in common language rather than understand what it really means for those who are triggered. I have things that make me uncomfortable, but I’d never say I was triggered. Such as, I avoid books about rape. However, transphobia or detailed descriptions of gender dysphoria? Those are hard triggers for me.

        I’m not saying we shouldn’t have trigger warnings, but we should educate people about the true meaning so everyone uses in a way we all understand. Not dictating whether someone else should/shouldn’t be triggered because, as you said, everyone is different. I think general content warnings are perfect (especially in the copyright page) so everyone knows and can avoid as needed.

        And, my granddaddy is an older conservative man who doesn’t understand why people can’t suck it up and move on because the world is a big, scary place where you can’t be saved from hearing something. Which is bull.

        Like

  5. taylortalksbooks says:

    I totally agree with you! I just started putting Trigger Warnings in my reviews (I went back to add them to my previously posted ones) and definitely wish I did them from the start. I feel like they are crazy important to let readers know the type of content to expect and can avoid someone being negatively affected by the aspects in the novel. Wonderful discussion!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Marta says:

      Well done!! I really have to do that too with my previous reviews.
      Yes, I wholeheartedly agree, though it’s still sad that the publishers won’t add them as well since many people don’t read reviews. 😢

      Liked by 1 person

    • Marta says:

      Indeed! I’m sure there are many ways to incorporate them without spoiling those who don’t want to read them. They can just say where the triggers will be and the said reader can avoid it. I absolutely agree, I’m not sure why this isn’t happening yet, but it saddens me 😢

      Like

  6. Siobhan @ Novelties says:

    “They are essential to avoid relapses.”

    Thank you for saying that!

    I see both sides of this issue. If used appropriately, a trigger warning can prevent readers from reliving their memories they’d rather forget, but some, including myself, can handle some triggers. I know several people who will criticize you for saying those two words though. They’ve become a certain kind of joke to people, which I find disheartening.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Marta says:

      Yes, I know what you mean! I still think trigger warnings should be taken seriously. After all, they stem from people dealing with PTSD, which is not a joke. People that use it lightly don’t understand its magnitude and those who take it as a joke because of the previous mentioned don’t really see the whole picture.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Mel says:

    This is a really interesting post. I’d say I’m in support of TWs because I have traumas of my own and would like to be warned that a book might contain something that could trigger me, and then choose whether or not I think I can handle it. I’ll admit that sometimes I roll my eyes a little at some things that get TWs, but then check myself and remind myself that there are many different levels of trauma, and lots of people would think things I have experienced wouldn’t count, so it’s important to be sensitive to everyone and realize that trauma isn’t one thing or experienced at one level, which is why the warnings are very important.

    TWs don’t even mean a person won’t read a book; it’s just a warning that someone can take into account or not depending on their level of trauma and their mental health at the time of reading the material. I personally wish more films and tv would have trigger warnings, because for me, I find it easier to read something with an issue I find triggering because if it is bad, I can choose not to read it or skip the part where it happens, but in film, it’s right in front of you and very hard to ignore.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Marta says:

      It happens to all of us, the rolling our eyes part, but then again as you said it’s hard to discriminate between someone who’s not taking trigger warnings seriously and someone who just has a trauma that you don’t see serious enough.
      I think that’s what makes publishers hesitant towards mentioning the triggers – the possibility of losing readers due to them. But yes, they can be as good to prepare the reader!! ❤
      Also, have you tried IMDB for trigger warnings for movies? I know they include them, maybe it can help!

      Like

  8. Norrie says:

    I usually make the questionable topics stand out in bold text.
    As Kathy said, we don’t know who is triggered by what.
    I think it should be included on the book somehow… like maybe not on the cover (cuz spoilers), but on the page with all the copyright info? So that whoever wants to check it can, but it’s not blatantly obvious.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Marta says:

      Same here! Though I’ll probably try to start adding the triggers as well at the top of the review. I tend to read other people’s reviews as well, these really help you spot some triggers.
      Yes, I totally agree because in the end, many people don’t read reviews and it should be the publisher’s responsibility. We’ll see if it ever happens, though.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Andreea P. says:

    I agree with you and I feel a bit bad for not using trigger warnings in my reviews – but will do from now on. I usually tend to miss them, but when they are a big part of the story it is kinda hard to not see them.

    As for trigger warnings giving spoilers? I don’t agree with that – it’s not like you are revealing the plot, and even if you were, you are so right, we have to think about what’s more important! And I don’t really believe in spoilers (it’s weird, I know, but I care more about what the reading experience than details of the plot).

    Liked by 1 person

    • Marta says:

      Yes!! I’m talking especially about those books which are so heavy with them, but haven’t been publicized really well and readers have no idea what to expect from these books.
      Same! It’s never been a huge deal for me either, the only thing I care about not being spoiled is major deaths.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Marie says:

    This is such a wonderful post and discussion, Marta, thank you so much for writing it. I agree that trigger warnings are important and I recently started using them in each of my reviews on my blog. I’m doing my very best to spot potential trigger warnings, but I know I’m only human and I could miss some things, and I really hope and wish that people will warn me when that happens, so that I can add these to my reviews. I don’t think they are necessarily spoiler-y, because I don’t feel like you are revealing what happens in the entire book. Just, if there is something triggering happening at one moment, it should be mentioned, it’s just so that people manage to avoid the book, or be warned, if they could potentially be triggered by some elements of the book. The readers’ protection matters more than “spoilers”. I don’t see them as spoilers though – I mean, when you write “graphic violence” or something, you don’t really say that there is violence between X and Y and just spoil the entire book. That’s just my own opinion though 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • Marta says:

      Yes, they can be really hard to spot, but I would be really happy if people warned me as well 🙈
      That’s exactly my take on it as well! It’s not really spoiler-y if you read something so vague, sometimes I read concrete spoilers with characters’ names and everything and forget about them altogether prior to reading the book.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Kay Wisteria says:

    I didn’t even know that some people didn’t like trigger warnings–that just seems absurd! This is such a great post and after reading it I’m definitely going to make sure that I remember to put them more 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Madalyn @ Novel Ink says:

    I completely agree with you on this subject! Trigger warnings are really important to include in reviews– to me, I feel like it’s part of my responsibility as a reviewer to alert readers to potentially harmful or triggering content in books. Plus, as a reader, I always like to know if there’s any unsettling content in a book on my TBR. You articulated everything so well in this post; thanks so much for writing this! ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    • Marta says:

      Thank you very much, Madalyn!! ❤
      Yes, I think it’s part of our responsibility, but also the publishers should try to do more as well because some readers don’t read reviews and therefore are vulnerable 😢

      Like

    • Marta says:

      Yes!!! I think that would be the best way to make sure readers really see those warnings because reviews aren’t read by everyone, but triggers written on a corner that can be ignored by those who don’t want to read them would be really positive. ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  13. hannawsreads says:

    I agree with you! But at the same time i have to say that shamefully i have forgot to put some trigger warnings 🙈 i once read a book that had had some great reviews but none of those had trigger warnings and when I read the book, i would have been so grateful about those warnings.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. emmareadstoomuch says:

    this is such an important post!! personally i don’t require trigger warnings for myself, so i find it can be a bit harder for me to remember – it’s hard to apply it to books, sometimes. but if something about a book makes me uncomfortable, and it’s somewhat explicit or otherwise triggering content, then i’m usually reminded. the thought process of “if i’m uncomfortable, then people who are triggered by this content should certainly be aware it’s here” usually helps. i think as a community we should work towards being more understanding in our use of trigger warnings!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Marta says:

      I know it can be difficult sometimes, I struggle a lot with thinking what could be triggering for other people, that’s why I think publishers could do a much better work than us since they have all the early reviews and also sensitivity readers.
      Agreed!! ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  15. Fanna says:

    This is such an eye opening post! I loved this straight forward discussion, Marta ❤ Triggers can be pretty bad especially when someone's trying their best to get past what had happened but are thrown back into the pitfall because a reviewer failed to warn the readers about potential triggers. I can suck at not mentioning clear-cut triggers and I'm always guilty of that! But the worse is if someone tries to counter when a reader says upfront how the book triggered them. That's absolutely unethical and empathy-less, and totally not deserved in this community. Also, it can be difficult for a reviewer to sometimes include every possible triggers because some might just slip their mind…no matter how many sticky notes and highlighters we use. But should we not try at all? That would be worse. I can't even imagine someone debating over what could be triggering because triggers are something that stem out from personal experiences which are evidently different for everyone. This discussion is definitely something I would promote because some ignorant people out there need to know where they might be wrong. Great post, Marta! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Marta says:

      I think the biggest responsibility for those should fall on the publishers’ shoulders, but since they don’t really include them, we have to try to include as many as possible.
      The least we can do is to acknowledge the triggers when we’re warned by other readers that they’ve been triggered. It’s kind of sad that many people will still be hurt because they don’t read blogs or access Goodreads and so on. 😢
      I’m glad you liked it, Fanna! ❤ You’re really kind and sweet!!

      Like

  16. flippingthruthepages says:

    Nice post Marta! I have to admit that I am the person who was not using trigger warnings in her reviews from the beginning. I never realized they were so important. But now, I try to include them wherever it is possible.
    I am not like a person who is triggered by the things in books. I don’t really think that I have ever. So there are situations when I don’t think at all about those triggers. But now, being an active member of this community, I have learned many things and this is an important one. I try to include the triggers which I think can be the potential ones, but again I may have missed some 🙂
    I am going to include this post in my monthly wrap-up. This is definitely worth thinking about.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Marta says:

      Same here! As I’m becoming more aware of them, I try to include them more and more in my reviews whenever I spot them!
      I’m exactly like you, but some subjects are obviously triggering and I think even if we only mention those, it’s still a good thing because we’re helping readers avoid them.
      Thank you very much!!! ❤

      Like

  17. Annemieke says:

    Yes we need more trigger warnings. We need them in books most of all. Because just having them in reviews isn’t enough. Not everyone reads those.

    Suicide can be triggering to me. I can read about it but I need to know ahead of time.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. The Lovely Pages Reviews says:

    This is so on point! I recently read a book that had a lot of dark and disturbing scenes, even though I’m not a reader who requests trigger warnings, this one went beyond my capacity to read this kind of content and I didn’t even know that was possible since I’ve read a lot of dark books. I think (well in my case anyway) a warning helps prepare the reader for the kind of content they are about to read and in the end, the book itself, I woud have rated the book higher if I knew the kind of book I was getting instead of getting shocked and reading stuff I was not mentally prepared for. Great topic!

    Like

  19. Mattie @ Living Mattie says:

    Great discussion! I’ve never seen anyone discuss this before, but it’s such an important topic. I agree with you, trigger warnings are SO important. I love it when reviewers mention trigger warnings, but I think the main responsibility should fall to the publishers. I honestly think books should have some sort of trigger warning on the back of the book (you know like films do) – that would so helpful! My problem with giving trigger warnings in my reviews is that I sometimes don’t notice them, or I’m not sure whether something is bad enough to trigger someone else, does that make sense?? I never know whether to include violence for example, because most fantasy books contain some sort of fighting and would that trigger someone else, I don’t really know? Obviously, I ALWAYS mention the main, really sensitive triggers though.

    Like

  20. Kristina says:

    Very true, I agree !

    I think I did have a little blurb at the end of my “all the bright places” review.. but I shall keep that in mind (or try to very hard..) and If I don’t im very sorry ! If anyone want me to put a trigger warning on any of my review, i’d do it and appologize for missing it ..

    Like

  21. Olivia-Savannah says:

    I recently finished a book which was about sexual assault but the synopsis had no trigger warning on it at all! The synopsis didn’t give any indication it was about that even though it was the MAIN subject matter of the story. I think trigger warnings are so important because there are those who could relapse if they read/watched whatever book/movie it is. I also think it’s good for readers to better be able to select what they want to read – kind of acting like genres there. I agree with pretty much everything you said!!

    Like

  22. Caro @ bookcheshirecat says:

    AMAZING post Marta! You perfectly put into words what I think about the topic as well! I always include trigger warnings at the very beginning of my Reviews, because they are so very important and should become more normalized in the bookish community. Of course I’m sometimes a bit afraid that I missed a trigger, which is why I would wish for more Reviews with trigger warnings, this way I could double check by looking at other people’s Reviews.

    Like

  23. Krysta says:

    I think trigger warnings are a bit misunderstood these days. If I attend a class or a lecture and someone says, “These next few scenes contain graphic violence,” that’s a trigger warning. And people typically accept that without question, probably because the person issuing the statement doesn’t say it out loud as “Trigger Warning: There is graphic violence in these next few scenes.” That is, people have been giving trigger warnings for years and we all seemed to understand the point intuitively. I’m not sure why it’s suddenly become a source of contention.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Marta says:

      Yeah, I totally agree with you! I think they are totally misunderstood, it all roots in the fact that we have this misconception that people are more sensitive nowadays, while I think they are just more aware of some issues that were mostly ignored in the post (due to people not having enough information or because of other reasons).

      Like

  24. Charvi says:

    This is such a very important topic that few people even think about! I’ll be honest, I didn’t use to think trigger warnings were a big deal until one day I was reading this fanfiction. I used to cut before and things were very stressful at that time when I was reading it and the author just described everything so vividly I felt myself relapse and go back to it. It frightened me that somebody’s writing could hold such a strong power over me. Even the most minor stuff can trigger someone.

    Now I always include trigger warnings, and I just wish others would too. Thank you for this wonderful post 💕

    Liked by 1 person

  25. Ilsen Leon says:

    Trigger warning are so important and you should never try to dismiss them as not important or easily triggered. Some of these are traumatic. We all have different experiences. I need to try to put trigger warning. One way to avoid spoilers it to say there is “conversation of or content of” that certain subject.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Marta says:

      Yep, I think “mentions of” or “content of” are not spoilers, but there are some people that would consider even those spoilers. I still think it’s more important to warn those who might be triggered, it’s kind of hard to please everyone when it comes to this subject as many are against trigger warnings.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Ilsen Leon says:

      I don’t include as many as I should because everyone has different triggers and I’m not sure what counts but if I know it does trigger someone, I make sure to mention it. It is very important.

      Like

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