TV Triggers: The Influence of ‘What We Watch’ During Recovery

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Last Updated on May 28, 2021 by

Mental health professionals agree that watching television stimulates the mind, causing it to become more anxious. It seems to be plausible because television stimulates neurons in the brain and anxiety.

Demi Lovato believes in the importance of staying sober and says she tries to avoid television shows about drugs and drug use, like Breaking Bad and Narcos, that feature them prominently in the plot because it affects her mental health.

Sex, crime, brutality, and widespread drug abuse have been ubiquitous in television programming for a long time. The industry of entertainment tends to assume that humans love being upset and that a surprise factor still sells as “great TV.” Truthful storytelling and realistic representations of real-life issues such as drug abuse and its consequences are becoming increasingly popular. During recovery from addiction, trauma, and other mental health problems, cinematic therapy is a really therapeutic and informative experience. We find a relation to our personal trauma stories by seeing other people have their own personal trauma experiences, or the aftereffect of trauma experiences, on television, as we discussed in a previous article.

Lovato understands the importance of avoiding possible causes, which are described as something in a person’s daily lifestyle and environment that, without his consciousness of mental health, may take him back to addiction. “I don’t need to see that,” she expresses herself clearly during an interview with In-Style.

What we view on television can cause or make us uncomfortable when we are in the early stages of recovery from mental health issues. While there may be a wonderful learning process involved, we may be left languishing in symptoms of trauma if professional care is not available, as it will be at a recovery facility. As time goes we start realizing in trauma rehabilitation that our reactions during trauma and causes are our very own responsibility and we are competent in controlling and regulating them with positive mental health. However, during the initial stages, our reactions can make us still feel out of our own control, stressed, and incredibly awkward, which we don’t need to be feeling.

Lovato is far from alone in thinking that what we watch can halt someone’s progress in recovering from a mental health issue. Addiction specialists and mental health experts have identified that substance abusers have a set of places, people and things that can be triggers.

Whether it’s a drug-using friend or a place where recreational drugs are used or a place at home associated with overindulging, avoiding exposure to alcohol or drug use can be helpful to one’s mental health, especially for newly sober people.

Triggering television programs are healthy in the sense that they won’t really cause harm to our mental health. However, their harmful effects may cause us to act in self-harming ways. For instance, the Netflix series “13 Reasons Why” has exposed outwardly drug use, suicide, sexual assault, intravenous drug use, rape, and more. Research studies found that teenagers, the main audience for the show, experienced more psychological distress as a result. In addition, suicide attempts increased leading doctors and professionals to speak out against the show, urging parents not to let their children view it due to how negatively it affect their mental health.

As the trauma recovery process advances, exposure to stimuli on television or in everyday life will become less of an issue. Watch only what gives you comfort, pleasure, healthy emotional release, or satisfaction when you’re getting to know your emotions and observing your trauma responses with your mental health.

An Increasing Number of Shows Are Portraying Real-Life Trauma

Although we are all aware that television shows are exaggerated for dramatic effect, today’s scripts, directors, and actors do an eerily believable job portraying traumatic situations that resonate with viewers because they are based on current events. It’s no surprise that with today’s breathtaking graphics, special effects, and dramatic displays of emotion on fictionalized shows, so many people’s mental health makes them feel as if they’re actually there and experiencing what a character is going through.

“These shows have a greater impact on people who are sensitive, emotional, nervous, or depressed (negative mental health),” Dr. Lieberman says. “An audience would be more affected if they have experienced something in the plotline—such as rape or having a loved one die a violent death—in particular, if they have experienced something in the plotline—such as rape or having a loved one die a violent death.” When you watch a show like SVU, you can feel a connection to or identify with a victim, causing you to feel their pain through mental health. You might be worried about something similar happening to you, or you might be overcome by memories if it has.

Mental Health While Tuning In

In 2017, the second season of 13 Reasons Why included a disclaimer with a public service announcement noting that the series may not be right for some viewers and that it is better to watch it if you are in the right place.

Although some experts accepted that 13 Reasons Why are bringing attention to mental health and suicide, which is the second most popular cause of death among individuals between 15 and 34. Other experts interrogated whether the story was too graphic and dramatic. They also complained about the story’s lack of complexity, and they were worried that viewing it might make more to commit suicide (negative mental health)..

Amy Adams’ HBO series Sharp Objects ended each episode by pointing viewers to services that support those who deal with self-harm and drug abuse, which is good to keep people mental health in check.

From Elliot’s addiction problems in Mr. Robot to Emily Blunt’s character’s cocaine habit to the creation of the crystal meth that made up practically the majority of a supporting cast on Breaking Bad, everything has sparked a flurry of controversy from mental health enthusiasts.

Holding Stimuli Under Control

The essence of a cause is that it usually happens without warning or unnecessary fanfare. They may come out of nowhere, which is the reason mental health practitioners stress the significance of getting a plan in place for when such causes happen. Selecting what one views and consumes as media will be an important component of that approach as far as mental health is concerned.

Although relapse temptations are common — recent statistics suggest that up to 90% of individuals struggle with the concept of relapse after their formal care finishes — avoiding entertainment that might cause a relapse is a game changer for mental health.

Planning is important, as it is for all. It’s probably not a good idea to surf channels in the early stages of recovery because you never know what will appear on the computer. It’s also crucial to pay attention to how your mental health reacts when you see something that has always made you struggle — or are still struggling with — in order to determine the most effective strategy. For the sake of your sobriety, that may mean turning off, or at the very least pausing, any programming that features alcohol, drugs or mental health issues.

How to Protect Oneself from Traumatizing Television Events?

If you are getting agitated because you’ve watched something, monitor your breathing and feel yourself, it means your mental health is being triggered in the wrong way. Take deep, slow breaths to bring yourself back to reality. Put your senses to work by asking yourself what you hear, see, and taste.

This method will help you avoid being entangled in the make-believe you’re watching and return you to the present moment. The easiest way to handle a negative answer is to turn off your television or start walking away. If you believe what you’re seeing is causing your trauma and affecting your mental health then you don’t need to stop watching.

You may look away at any time. It is pointless to relive the pain purely for the sake of entertainment. Any trigger warnings should be taken seriously especially those before the episode. Watch television shows and see what kinds of reactions you get. To determine why you reacted the way you did, discuss what you saw with a friend, your partner, or other family members. Seek clinical help from a therapist if you experience trauma symptoms.

How I Overcame My Anxiety

If a show is triggering you and affecting your mental health, one of the most important things you can do is stop watching it altogether. After all, television should be a stress reliever, not a cause of it. If, on the other hand, it’s your absolute favorite show and you can’t imagine life without it (I’m looking at you, Scandal gladiators), a few precautions can help you feel more at ease.

Keep the lights on when watching, relax on a cozy sofa, eat a snack, cuddle with a pet, or watch with a family member or friend, according to doctors. Doctors also advise against watching emotional or scary shows right before bedtime because you may be too wired with negative emotions to sleep and your mental health will run wild.

Trauma isn’t something that needs to be relived in order to watch a movie or to relax, so lets take our mental health serious.