Trauma Button

Butters: What kind of competition is it?
Stan: It's a dance-off, we heard you were tap-dancing state champion two years ago.
Butters: (terrified) No...
Stan: ... But you were, weren't you? You went to the nationals in Nebraska?
South Park (it turns out that Butters had caused an accident that killed eight people at said Nationals.)

This is when someone suddenly suffers from the onset of repressed traumatic memories because of some trigger, such as another character unknowingly saying or doing something related to the memories. This typically results in the traumatized individual getting extremely anxious, and may even lead to them breaking down in tears or engaging in sudden violent behavior.

Information regarding triggering or specifically relevant quotes should be placed on the Useful Notes page, which has a more in-depth description of triggers and the meta concept for those interested. This page is for the discussion of In-Universe triggering only.

A trauma counterpart to Oblivious Guilt Slinging and closely related to Berserk Button. Compare Troubled Backstory Flashback, Innocently Insensitive, Shell-Shocked Veteran, Trigger Phrase, and Too Soon.

In-Universe Examples Only. Literally everything is somebody's trigger, so specific real life cases are unnecessary.

Examples:

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    Anime and Manga 
  • In Kotoura-san, being called a "monster" is a severe trigger that causes Kotoura's hard-earned sense of self-worth and happiness to crumble, reverting her to her original pessimistic and broken persona — one that is caused, during her previous decade of emotional trauma, her has Internalized other people's "You Monster!" insults.
  • In Heat Guy J Clair "kidnaps" a little robot child named Teto (after the guy who built Teto illegally refuses to sell the robot to The Mafia), with the intent of reprogramming him to destroy J. Teto is programmed to ask, "Is this alright?" after obeying a command, and this causes Clair to flash back to emotional abuse and neglect from his father. Clair is visibly disturbed by Teto, and gleefully commands the robot to self-destruct after dealing with J. Daisuke himself triggers yet another flashback (this one to physical abuse) when he gives Clair a Shut Up, Hannibal! speech. This earns Daisuke three gunshots. But he had on a bulletproof vest, so he's alright.
  • Fairy Tail: Mirajane and Elfman seemingly lost their sister Lisanna due to an S-Class mission gone horribly wrong. When an enemy is about to kill one of them, the other will be reminded of that tragic event...and the enemy in question will have HELL to pay.
  • Shino Asada from Sword Art Online was traumatized at age eleven from having shot a bank robber in self defense. Several years later, just someone miming a gun with their thumb and forefinger will make her afraid, and physical guns (real or model) will make her vomit. She entered the gun-based Virtual MMORPG Gun Gale Online as a self-described immersion therapy to help her fight this trauma.
  • Fullmetal Alchemist:
    • In the 2003 anime, Roy suffers from PTSD and depression after the Ishbal War. When he fights a twelve year old Edward in an early episode he starts to deal a final blow but freezes up and remembers how he killed a boy in the war. This pause leaves an opening and lets Ed defeat Roy.
    • When Edward sees the mangled corpse of a woman slaughtered by a serial killer he freaks out and faints. It reminds him of the horrific failed (or so he thinks) transmutation of his mother.
  • Henrietta from Gunslinger Girl is normally very stoic and calm whenever she's on a mission. Late into the manga, after she had been reconditioned to the point where she is basically an emotionless robot, a man in a ski-mask ends up on top of her. This triggers her memory of her rape and near-death by the man who savagely murdered her parents years prior, a memory which was supposed to be deleted when she originally became a cyborg but apparently was only repressed. She goes into a rage and ends up shooting her handler. As Jose is dying, and she suddenly regained her old personality and memories, they decide to kill each other.
  • In Uchuu Kyoudai, Hibito develops a panic disorder after he almost suffocates in his space suit on the moon. After he returns to earth, he has a panic attack any time he's in a space suit or even thinks about being in one.
  • Marito from Aldnoah.Zero is the Sole Survivor of the 1999 conflict between Martians and earthlings. Fifteen years later he is still deeply traumatized and suffers from PTSD. In episode 5 he attempts to use a mecha but his vision blurs and he shakes too uncontrollably to do so.
  • Rather unusually for a show aimed at young kids, Reira Akaba from Yu-Gi-Oh! ARC-V breaks into PTSD when the sight of a never-ending stream of Obelisk Force mooks reminds him of the gas-masked soldiers he often saw while growing up in a distant country torn apart by war. Another one happens in episode 109 to Sayaka, as the sight of Ancient Gear Chaos Giant causes her to enter a state of panic and recklessly run towards falling rubble.
  • Chapter 2 of the Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha StrikerS prequel manga reveals that the sight of ruined battlefields causes Vita to flashback to when Nanoha was nearly killed. Since she never shows any signs of this during the show proper, it can be assumed that she either underwent therapy in the intervening years or somehow overcame her PTSD through sheer force of will.
    Vita: Every time I see the ruins of a recent battle... I remember something that I'd rather forget.
  • In Pokémon Sun & Moon, Mimikyu goes off when it encounters Ash's Pikachu. In the video game, Mimikyu is merely envious of the love Pikachu receives. But the one seen in the anime despises Pikachu so much, it joins Team Rocket just to defeat Ash's.
    • Alain and (judging by her similarly dazed and silent, slowed-down staring when it first happened) Mairin from The Strongest Mega-Evolution specials develop one of Draco Meteor, after a messy clash between Hoenn Legendaries causes some impressive damage and Alain even injures his shoulder saving Mairin from it. It actually causes Alain to freeze up, looking horrified, when he sees it in use again in his XYZ appearance.
  • In Monster Rancher, Genki gets chewed out by Suezo for asking Holly about her family (turns out she has a Disappeared Dad and a Doomed Hometown.) She decides she needs to talk about it, anyway.
  • In Ranma ˝, the title character is deathly afraid of cats, as a result of the time his idiot father bound him up in fish sausages and threw him into a pit full of hungry cats in an effort to teach him the "Cat Fist" technique. His secret is accidentally revealed after Kasumi brings home a cat that she'd promised to take care of.
  • Azumanga Daioh: The mere mention of getting into a car with Yukari-sensei driving is enough to give Chiyo the chills (her cheerful expression frozen in place). It also teleports her into the other car (seatbelt attached) in seconds.
  • Dragon Ball Super: During the Resurrection 'F' adaptation, it's established that Frieza suffers from severe PTSD as a result of his suffering from Hell and his defeat at Goku's hands. When he sees Gohan choose to spare Captain Ginyu-in-Tagoma's body after defeating him, Frieza is immediately reminded of Goku's Cruel Mercy towards him back on Namek and has a massive Freak Out!, personally stepping into battle and torturing Gohan with Beam Spam until he's left crippled on the ground.
  • In One Piece, the pirate Emperor Charlotte "Big Mom" Linlin has her portrait of a woman called Mother Carmel. At every one of her parties, the portrait is placed across from her, and if that picture is ever damaged, Big Mom suffers a Freak Out! so bad that she lets loose the mother of all screams and her normally Made of Iron body becomes vulnerable. Mother Carmel ran an orphanage Linlin once stayed in and was probably the only person who forgave and tolerated Linlin's destructive behavior (to enable it, as it turns out, but Linlin never finds out). On Linlin's sixth birthday, Carmel and the other orphans just up and vanished right when Linlin was going on an eating spree., and since Carmel was a Fruit User, that's how Linlin/Big Mom got her own powers.
  • Name dropped and Played for Laughs in Sgt. Frog with Lance Corporal Dororo. While more common in the Anime than the Manga, Dororo is frequently reduced to tears by being forgotten or mistreated by Keroro, who frequently did such things when they were kids. The series refers to this as his "Trauma Switch."
  • Berserk:
    • Sex, especially rape, serves as a big one for Guts, both before and after the Eclipse. His first time with Casca causes him to flashback to the time when he was raped as a child by Donovan, one of Gambino's soldiers, and he nearly chokes Casca to death before snapping out of it. During the Conviction arc, seeing Farnese being pinned down and about to be raped by a possessed horse causes him to flashback to the moment of Casca's rape during the Eclipse, at which point he snaps and slices the horse's head clean off. Guts's general aversion to being touched also has its roots in this.
    • During the Eclipse, Casca was brutally raped by Griffith in his first act as Femto, the act driving her completely insane. At one point, she stumbles across three bandits who try to gang-rape her... at which point she flashes back to the Eclipse and snaps, grabbing a sword and killing them all.

    Comic Books 
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 10 had an issue called "Triggers", concerning an Incubus sexual predator.
  • In the Doctor Who (Titan) comics, the TARDIS deliberately incapacitates Abslom Daak, driving him to a violent meltdown, by telepathically bringing up a memory of his wife's death at the gunsticks of the Daleks. It's later revealed that the mere mention of the word "exterminate" has the same effect on him.
  • When the Runaways visited Avengers Academy, Reptil shows off his dinosaur-impersonation abilities by turning into a deinonychus. This doesn't go over too well with Klara, who was once trapped under a deinonychus corpse. It's apparently enough of a trigger for her (and her teammates have enough awareness of it) that Karolina is compelled to immediately run over and try and calm her down.
    • Klara also freaks out really badly at the sight of corpses, owing to the time she was trapped in a factory fire and watched her coworkers succumb to smoke inhalation. Even a perceived corpse can set her off - during her first outing with the Runaways, she panics after Molly suddenly passed out during battle, not knowing that Molly regularly conks out after using her powers.
  • In Batgirl, the Mirror manages to induce a panic attack in Babs by pointing a gun at her in exactly the same fashion as The Joker did when he paralyzed her. He probably hadn't known how effective it would be.
    • Later in the same story arc, Batgirl defeats Mirror by projecting the images of his dead family onto his armor itself. He has a total breakdown. How's that for returning fire?
  • In Avengers: The Initiative, Terrance "Trauma" Ward has the ability to morph into the worst fear of anyone around him. He was quickly reassigned to the black-ops Shadow Initiative after causing severe anxiety attacks in several of his fellow trainees.
  • Mentioned in the Transformers: More than Meets the Eye event comic featuring the Scavengers. Crankcase is reduced to shocked, catatonic fear when he is greeted by what appears to be a returned Thunderwing—understandably, since the last time he saw Thunderwing, his squad was wiped out (Crankcase himself got off lucky with a gaping head wound; his cohort Ruckus was stomped into a metal pancake). In a rare show of sympathy, Krok yells at Thunderwing about trigger warnings around the traumatized Crankcase...moments before he snaps Crankcase out of it by karate-chopping him, setting off the paired lasers in his shoulders and blasting Thunderwing. In spite of its implied serious context, this is actually all a setup for a Stealth Pun—longtime fans might recall that Crankcase is part of a subgroup called the Triggercons, and it turns out that the whole incident is actually a misunderstanding.
  • Empowered has Fruity Flakes cereal, which was what she was eating when her father died suddenly in front of her. She doesn't even have to smell or taste it; just seeing a box can drive her to hysterics. She recovers after using her powers to detect, and convincing another man to get treatment for, the same thing that killed her father.
  • In Uncanny Avengers, it's implied that Wasp gets triggered by talk of ants, due to the abuse she suffered at the hands of her ex-husband Ant-Man.

    Fan Fic 
  • Near the start of Hard Reset's final chapter, Spike saying the words from the start of the time loop causes Twilight to freeze in shock, which is the first sign to the viewers about the effects of her experiences.
  • In Dirty Sympathy when Apollo tries calling Klavier an endearmentnote , it causes him to freak out and leave because it gives him flashbacks of Daryan's abuse.
  • In A Gun to Love's Head Light is triggered when Mello pulls a gun on him and L due to the psychological trauma left over from that time when L had his father put a gun to his head and stage a mock execution.
  • In Christian Grey Vs Pepper Potts, it turns out that an attractive woman tripping in front of Christian Grey triggers him into deciding on the spot that she's his true love and the perfect submissive for him, no matter how he viewed her before. This passes on to Rogue after she is taken over by his personality, causing her to chase down Hawkeye to try to spank him after seeing him trip.
  • In The Fifth Act, being sent to the past is not good for Cloud's emotional health. Pretty much everything and everyone he interacts with forces a flashback or pushes a Berserk Button or otherwise reminds him of his past. He starts getting frequent Bad Dreams as a result. For example, Sephiroth tries to egg him into a fight by calling him a puppet to make fun of Cloud's Extreme Doormat nature, not knowing that's the absolute worst thing that he can call him. Cloud attacks him in a blind fury.
  • In Ghosts of Evangelion, Shinji and Asuka suffer from PTSD. Asuka mentions that stress triggers it.
  • Riding The Dragon has Michael Hasek-Davion, traumatised by being defeated by a Battlemaster in the past, open fire on his son's Battlemaster.
  • In Swinging Pendulum, Ichigo avoids visiting the Shiba compound as much as possible so he won't end up seeing his young father, who died in his original timeline. During a family dinner, Ichigo gets triggered into an emotional breakdown when he sees his father joke about needing an extremely patient woman if he ever gets married and describing what kind of kids he wants.
  • In Shatterheart, when Kurogane tries grabbing Syaoran to force him out of his room he triggers a screaming panic attack in Syaoran, who had been kidnapped and nearly tortured to death.
  • In the Emergency! fic "Lost and Found", John is staying at Roy's house while recovering from an 18 month ordeal of kidnapping, torture and rape. When Roy's kids are reunited with John, Jennifer starts talking about a previously planned Disney vacation. She innocently says she wants Uncle Johnny to have some fun. Unfortunately, this phrase was often used by John's captor, especially when he wanted to get sexual. Johnny ends up retreating to his bedroom.
    • The sequel has Roy giving John a gift certificate for a photo for Father's Day, so Johnny can get his first picture with the baby daughter born while he was away. But, Roy kicks himself later because he forgot Johnny was forced to pose for pornographic pictures by his captor, and John has a panic attack at the studio. There's a double example of sorts, because Roy forgets, and the photographer, who Johnny incidentally ends up marrying later, has no clue either that John will have a panic attack.
  • In Origins, a Mass Effect/Star Wars/Borderlands/Halo Massive Multiplayer Crossover, of all people, Sarah has one revolving around her time in captivity with the Flood. Given what happened to her, it's understandable and very similar to Cortana's experience in canon background.
  • In Guardian, Lulu refuses to explore a cave on Besaid Island with Wakka, Chappu, and Yuna and gets angry when pressed thanks to her traumatic experience in Yojimbo's cavern with Lady Ginnem.
  • Penny in The RWBY Loops only starts looping after her canonical death and thus ends up with a crippling terror of Pyrrha, the one who (accidentally) killed her. Pyrrha is very understanding, avoiding her for some time, and both of them realize it's not entirely healthy; over the course of the fic, they work together to help her overcome her trauma.
  • Shinobu Maehara in The Merry Killers is nearly triggered by her classmates trying to make her wear the color red, knowing she actively avoids the color. What they don't know is that red is what causes her Split Personality to come out and said personality is a psychotic killer.
  • In the final chapter of Don't Look, Kaji and Asuka accidentally set off Misato and Shinji respectively. Kaji wearing an actual suit (due to trying to make a good first impression) nearly causes Misato to shoot him and Asuka grabbing Shinji from behind causes him to reflexively try to cut her throat with a box cutter. Both are a result of their confrontation with the Slender Man.
  • In Extra Life, the sight and sound of elevators causes Chiaki to have flashbacks and panic attacks. Being betrayed and pushed into one was what started her Cold-Blooded Torture, so it's understandable why they would trigger her.
  • A Bridge Once Broken features several characters with PTSD: Loki (who's triggered by a lot of things), Clint Barton (mind control, Loki), Tony Stark (being imprisoned and forced to build a gadget, as well as some more common stuff).

    Film 
  • The action of the film First Blood is started by the main character having a PTSD flashback in police custody.
  • In the Alfred Hitchcock movie Spellbound, an amnesia victim becomes uncomfortable every time he sees a pattern of wavy dark lines against a white background, because it reminds him of the event which caused his amnesia - he had witnessed a murder at a ski resort, the dark lines were ski tracks in the snow.
  • In the Alfred Hitchcock movie Marnie, the title character is upset by patches of red. It has to do with her mother's murder.
  • The original version of The Manchurian Candidate. Actually one of the first films to explore triggering in depth, before the term was even generally used to describe it. While there's plenty of Critical Research Failure and such to go around and using triggers to create an assassin is likely impossible in Real Life (thankfully), and while it is definitely Played for Drama, the idea of using emotional triggers to manipulate people into doing things they would not otherwise do or act against their own self-interest is actually Truth in Television.
  • In The Muppets (2011), they find Animal in a therapy session to control his aggressive impulses. Turns out "drums" is a trigger word for him, to no one's surprise. It's also one for Jack Black.
  • Wreck-It Ralph has a scene where Felix calls Sgt. Calhoun a "dynamite gal", prompting a series of flashbacks to Calhoun's relationship with Brad, a man from her backstory who was eventually eaten alive by a Cy-Bug at their wedding, with each flashback consisting of Brad calling her a "dynamite gal". The trauma is so horrible that Calhoun ejects Felix from her ship in utter panic and tells him to get lost.
  • In Iron Man 3, Tony Stark's PTSD is triggered by the mere mention of "New York", "aliens", "wormhole", or anything to do with the Chitauri invasion.
  • Marianne from Strange Magic gets lost in flashbacks about being attacked in the Dark Forest by goblins when she goes near it.
  • Zootopia:
    • Seeing the "savage" animals muzzled causes Nick to have a flashback to when he tried to join the Junior Ranger Scouts and the other kids put a muzzle on him because he was a fox.
    • A fox bully clawing her face when she was a child has made certain behavior from foxes a trigger for Judy, as well. She allows herself to become suspicious the first time she sees Nick, and when Nick starts mirroring the actions and posture of her childhood fox bully during the press conference scene, she instinctively reaches for her "fox repellent" — she doesn't even realize she did it until she notices Nick's reaction to the gesture.
  • Played for Laughs in Airplane! where Ted Striker regularly goes into flashbacks about his traumatic war experience when someone mentions something tangentially relevant.
  • In How the Grinch Stole Christmas!, we see that the Grinch was an outcast in his childhood and that the final straw that drove him to hate Christmas and the Whos was his entire class laughing at his botched attempt at shaving his green fur off. Later, when the Grinch is invited back to Whoville to be the Holiday Cheermeister at a big celebration, he actually begins enjoying himself...until his old grade-school bully, now the Mayor, presents him with a gift: a shaving razor. Then, things go downhill from there.
  • Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives: At the beginning of the film, Tommy goes to the cemetery where Jason was buried and digs up his body, planning to cremate it in order to rid himself of his demons once and for all. However, the mere sight of the corpse triggers Tommy's traumatic memories of killing Jason back during The Final Chapter, causing him to Freak Out!, grab a piece of cemetery fence, and ram it into the corpse's heart in a fit of rage. Sadly, this fence post provides the perfect conductor for the lightning strike that brings Jason back to life.
  • In Lion, the sight of jalebi, a popular sweet in India, at a party triggers Saroo's memories of home, and causes him to become obsessed with finding his hometown.
  • Johnny Shellshock in The Englishman Who Went Up a Hill But Came Down a Mountain is, as his name suggests, a soldier who got PTSD while fighting in the trenches. When he's caught outside during a thunderstorm, he flashes back and thinks he's being attacked by German artillery, becoming near-catatonic as a result.
  • This is just one of the many, many tropes that are likely to appear in any given Lifetime Movie of the Week.note 

    Literature 
  • In Black Jewels, being told they were having "leg" for dinner is this for Janelle. Turns out one of her friends had her leg cut off and fed to the inmates (including Janelle) at Briarwood.
  • The protagonist of Use of Weapons refuses to sit in chairs. It almost feels as if this Played for Laughs at first, until the references to a white chair and "the Chairmaker" pile up more and more often. It isn't until the end of the book that you learn he has very good reasons for it.
  • Billy Pilgrim, the protagonist of Slaughterhouse-Five is either Unstuck in Time and/or suffering from PTSD. Seeing people singing at his daughter's wedding causes him to flash back to the aftermath of the firebombing of Dresden, where he remembers the survivors mouths' gaping like singers in a silent film.
  • In Stephen King's novel Desperation, the song "Good Lovin'" from The Young Rascals triggers Johnny Marinville's Vietnam War flashbacks (he was there as a journalist).
  • In A Song of Ice and Fire, the pyrotechnics of the Battle of Blackwater cause the normally fearless Sandor Clegane to have a breakdown, triggering memories of the attack by his brother in his childhood that left him permanently disfigured. Lord Beric Dondarrion's flaming sword has a similar effect.
  • In Pact, people touching Blake Thorburn without his consent triggers his fight or flight responses, leading him to react mindlessly and panic, a legacy of time he spent as a Homeless Pigeon Person, and the traumas he suffered there. This is repeatedly exploited by his enemies, with one of them finding the ghosts of his experiences on the streets and using them to Mind Rape him.
  • In All For The Game Andrew has multiple triggers, usually relating to his horrible time in the foster system and repeated past abuse. He doesn't like being touched, especially if he's being pushed or held down. Verbal triggers include the words "please," "misunderstanding," and "family." For your own good, just avoid using or bringing these words up around him.
  • Journey to Chaos: Tiza responds badly to anything that reminds her of the incident where she was kidnapped from her parents and lost her memory. These include someone trying to make her drink a potion, someone casting a certain spell or a specific way of phrasing a demand. The reactions can be anything from paralyzing fear to violent anger to panic.
  • In Alan Dean Foster's Star Wars novel Splinter of the Mind's Eye, when Captain-Supervisor Grammel mentions an Imperial Governor, Princess Leia remembers her interrogation in the Death Star while she was Grand Moff Tarkin's prisoner. She starts breathing unevenly, beads of sweat appear on her forehead, and she starts crying.
  • In More Tales of the City, a rose peddler accidentally causes a panic attack in the amnesiac Burke, though it also enables him and Mary Ann to begin figuring out how he lost his memory - his memory loss was the result of discovering a cannibal cult, who tried to compel him to feast on a human arm with a tattoo of a rose.
  • Possibly subverted (depending on your interpretation) or played straight in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, when Professor Moody seriously upsets Neville Longbottom by displaying the Cruciatus Curse for the class - Neville's parents were driven incurably insane by the Cruciatus Curse. The possible subversion comes in that "Professor Moody" was actually one of the people who tortured Neville's parents into insanity and, as a thoroughly evil bastard, may have known and enjoyed what he was doing to Neville.
  • Played with in Venus Prime 2, in which Sparta hires massage therapists to work over her whole body, hoping that their ministrations will trigger some of the memories that the Free Spirit stole from her.
  • The Accusation: Gyeong-hee's son screams and cries at the sight of Karl Marx posters, seemingly believing they're pictures of the mythical eobi. Given that they live in North Korea, where Marx posters are everywhere and signs of dissent are harshly punished, this causes Gyeong-hee no end of grief.

    Live Action TV 
  • Little House on the Prairie: Experienced by both Albert and Mary in the Season 6 epic episode "May We Make Them Proud." It all starts with a music box, which Albert presented to Mary, who has been in a deep catatonic state since her son (and Albert's nephew), Adam Jr., was killed in a fire at the School for the Blind. Albert plays the melody, and Mary snaps out of her trance-like state, screaming, "MY BABY!!!" repeatedly. Albert — who was smoking in the basement of the School for the Blind the night of the fire — realizes he may have unintentionally started the fire (he and a friend hid a lit pipe inside a pile of old rags) and screams, "I DIDN'T MEAN IT!!! IT WAS AN ACCIDENT!!!" before running out.
  • On Cheers, when Woody's old girlfriend shows up, he constantly goes out eating with her. He reveals that he used to be obese back in Indiana but since he moved to Boston, he's thin. The other guys realize his old girlfriend is his eating trigger, but don't know how to break it to him.
  • True Blood:
    • After Lafayette gets out of the dungeon that the vampires held him in, Detective Andy approaches him in the kitchen at Merlotte's, where Lafayette works. The next scene is basically him threatening to put Layfayette back in exactly the situation he just escaped from. Terry, a veteran with PTSD who probably recognized the signs since Lafayette had fallen down, terrified, calls the officer in question on this in a sort of one-on-one Shaming the Mob.
    • Terry also appears to have gotten one just before we come on-screen. Which makes sense, since he's an Iraq war vet who had just seen his wife covered in blood. She's not dead, but the white sheets are dark red.
  • Josh from The West Wing has a flashback trigger in Christmas music, because his delayed-reaction PTSD erupted right around Christmastime, and he mentally associated the constant caroling of the band in the White House lobby with the sirens from the assassination attempt during which he was near-fatally shot.
  • Inspector Lynley: Barbara Havers, back on the job after being shot in the stomach in the previous episode, shows obvious signs of PTSD throughout the episode; she is nervy and jumpy even more than her usual. Lynley is concerned, but doesn't want to interfere. When she is held hostage at gunpoint, however, Barbara completely flies off the handle and attacks the man pointing the gun at her, using him for a punching bag until Lynley gets there, pulls her off and talks her down with a Cooldown Hug. It must be emphasized that he could only manage this because of Barbara's implicit and unconditional trust in him; anyone else trying the same thing would have also been used as a punching bag, and in fact Barbara obviously nails Lynley a time or two before he can get through to her and she recognizes him.
  • In Game of Thrones, Theon suffers this when Euron calls him a "cockless coward". He starts slipping back into his Reek persona after trying to come back. It shows that while Ramsay is gone, his torture of Theon will haunt Theon for the rest of his life.
  • In Firefly, River has seemingly-random trigger moments which bring back memories of her time at the Academy, which coupled with her schizophrenia and Psychic Powers (and the Power Incontinence associated with them) result in very violent delusions. The most common trigger is anything relating to the Blue Sun corporation.
  • In an episode of Mulaney, Lou has Vietnam War-style flashbacks of a failed improv comedy routine for the USO whenever he hears the words "man down".
  • Black Mirror: "White Christmas" contains an early scene where the protagonist has a disturbed reaction to the song "I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day" by Wizzard and to an innocuous but distinctive clock on the wall. This is eventually revealed to be because he murdered a man while the song was playing, who had that clock on the wall.
  • In The Walking Dead, Judith's crying clearly makes Michonne uncomfortable, causing her to snap at Beth when the girl asks her to hold the baby. Michonne eventually breaks down in tears, and we later learn that she had an infant son who was slaughtered during the outbreak. This is further emphasised when she suffers a traumatic nightmare relating to the event.
  • Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles : for Derek, classical music playing (while Cameron practices a ballet routine) triggers flashbacks to a time when he was captured and, it's implied, tortured by Terminators. For John during "Self Made Man," a combination of feeling uncomfortable at a party where Riley is flirting with another boy (who's also a dick), a violent video game, and a confrontation with the boy when Riley steals his lighter leads John to attack the boy. By this time, it's revealed that John killed Sarkissian and his fight with the boy recalls that one.
  • In The Sopranos, family patriarch Tony Soprano suffers from panic attacks for the entirety of the series, and starts the series by (reluctantly) going to a therapist for help. Around Season 3, it's finally revealed that his trigger is meat, of all things. It turns out that he has a traumatic childhood memory of witnessing his father "Johnny Boy" Soprano torturing the local butcher Francis Satriale after he failed to pay his debts, then going home and finding his mother casually serving meat from Satriale's shop for dinner. By the time of the series, Satriale's Pork Store has become a front business for Tony's own crime family, serving as a constant reminder of the day that Tony found out how his father made his money. Call Backs reveal that there were hints about it all along: every single one of Tony's previous panic attacks happened when he was cooking or handling meat while under more stress than usual.
  • In an episode of Robin of Sherwood, Will Scarlet, who was forced to watch the rape and murder of his wife by Norman marauders, appears to be on the verge of an attack of PTSD when he sees the aftermath of Bertrand of Nivelles' attack on a village.
  • On Seinfeld, Frank Costanza sees someone choking at a singles event he cooked for, and is reminded of an incident during the Korean War where he was responsible for his troopmates getting food poisoning. Frank flips out and tries to stop everyone from eating, overturning the food table in the process.
  • In one episode of The Drew Carey Show, Mr. Wick grows tired of Mimi's outlandish outfits and garish makeup and tries to seal her up inside a cubicle so that he won't have to look at her. However, she turns out to be severely claustrophobic, and Drew ends up convincing Wick to remove the partitions, because her usual bitchy self is far more preferable to the nervous wreck that she's turning into.
  • In one episode of Law & Order: Criminal Intent, a young man at a party suddenly goes berserk and kills one of the revelers. Goren and Eames learn that the young man had been locked up in a basement for long periods of time and subjected to loud house music as part of some cruel therapy for his Ambiguous Disorder, so when he heard the same kind of music being played at the party, it caused him to want to kill.
  • In Halt and Catch Fire, Cameron meets Joe McMillan's father, Joe Sr., and they actually get along for a while... until Joe Sr. says that Cameron must make her own father very proud. Cameron lost her dad when she was only 10 years old, and the mere mention of him upsets her so badly that she retreats into another room to cry.
    • In the third season, she goes home to try and claim some of her father's old possessions, but the prospect of having to see her mother again fills her with such panic that she completely disappears for several days.
  • In the pilot of Tyrant, Barry's carefully-maintained stoic façade is jarred when, during his nephew's wedding, his brother Jamal fires a gun into the air and then hands the gun to Barry, expecting him to do the same. This causes Barry to experience a flashback to the time his father tried to force Jamal to shoot someone, but Barry ended up having to do it because Jamal was too scared. Barry hands the gun back to Jamal, and quickly walks away before his panic starts to show.
  • In an episode of Necessary Roughness, TK hires a massage therapist to try and speed up his recovery after getting shot. However, he repeatedly throws her out because she keeps touching the area where he got shot, causing him to remember the shooting. After he finally relents and actually starts to remember the shooting, he shows up at Dr. Santino's house looking utterly wrecked.
  • Narrowly averted in the pilot of Defiance; Tommy goes to arrest Irisa, but Nolan talks him out of using handcuffs, saying that Irisa had some really bad experiences with being chained up, and if Tommy tries to put cuffs on her, she will flip out and probably kill him. Since Irisa happens to be a ferocious-looking catgirl, Tommy wisely decides to follow Nolan's advice.
  • In an episode of The Suite Life of Zack and Cody, Arwin screams hysterically whenever the word "bowling" is said in front of him. It is eventually revealed that he was once a star bowler and even won a trophy for it. But a head injury inadvertently inflicted on his mother prompted him to relinquish his love for bowling ever since.
  • In the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. episode, "Making Friends and Influencing People", Fitz discovers that Ward, the man who tried to kill him and left him with permanent brain damage, is being held in SHIELD's basement. He proceeds to experience an anxiety attack.
  • Comes up in an episode of Hell's Kitchen. In one season, throughout Gordon's berating sprees, he calls Robert by "Bobby." It becomes obvious that it screws with his behavior, as he becomes glassy-eyed and disassociative with his surroundings almost instantly. Once Gordon corners Robert and brings this up, Robert explains that the name Bobby is associated with his abusive father. Gordon immediately recognizes the issue and makes it a point not to use that name again. Though, he wished Robert had brought it up sooner so it didn't become an issue.
  • In the first issue of the USA miniseries The Sinner, Cora Tannetti suddenly goes berserk and murders a young man at the beach, having been inexplicably triggered by the song that he was playing. The young man, it turns out, accidentally killed her younger sister years earlier; she'd managed to suppress the memory for years, but the music suddenly brought it all back.
  • Supernatural:
    • After Dean comes back from Hell, a demonic-looking Halloween masks gives Dean flashbacks. He maintains a cool exterior, however, and is able to continue a conversation without letting on.
    • Castiel is rendered nearly catatonic in season 8 when he hears his brother Samandriel screaming, because it triggers flashbacks to his torture and brainwashing at the hands of Naomi. What makes it doubly horrifying is that the events in question have been wiped from his memory — and he still reacts to it. The flashbacks are actually what tip him off that something's been done to him.
  • In Leverage, spending any amount of time in a hospital drastically increases the odds of Nathan Ford relapsing on his drinking habit, due to all the time he spent in the hospital when his son was dying.

    Theater 
  • Played for laughs in the Vaudeville sketch "Slowly I Turned." A man tells another the story of how he took revenge on an old enemy, and gets so caught up in his tale that he attacks the innocent listener. He soon regains his senses, only to go berserk again each time the listener mentions a certain proper noun—usually "Niagara Falls"—associated with the teller's past trauma.

    Video Games 
  • Alice Liddell from American McGee's Alice reacts pretty strongly when fire is brought up, probably because her whole family was killed in one.
  • While the Survivor Guilt afflicted asari huntress is a well known NPC in Mass Effect 3, an easy to miss background conversation in the Presidium Commons mentions that a certain human nurse triggers a screaming fit in that asari huntress. Why is she triggered? Because that nurse looks a lot like the injured fifteen-year-old farm girl that the huntress had to kill in order to successfully escape enemy forces.
  • One of the most controversial moments of Metroid: Other M has Samus reacting to the trigger of seeing Ridley again, after he was believed to be dead. The problem most fans had with this was that Samus had never shown any indication of PTSD before Other M, aside from a brief scene in a Japan-only manga, and had likewise shown no problems in taking Ridley down despite their long, violent history.
  • Tales of the Abyss plays this trope disturbingly realistically - Guy is afraid of women and whenever a woman goes to touch him. he recoils away in fear and sometimes even runs. He doesn't know why, and nobody else knows why, and it's Played for Laughs for a bit... until it's revealed that it came from PTSD of his family being killed. His sister hid him in a fireplace, and when soldiers came to kill them all, she and the maids threw themselves onto him to protect him. He passed out, and when he came to, he was buried in a pile of dead women. When the player learns this, it changes many skits into a Dude, Not Funny! and makes the skits and scenes on a subsequent playthrough much Harsher in Hindsight.
  • A robotic PTSD version for Bastion in Overwatch. When it reactivates for the first time in 30 years, it has little memory of its original purpose and instead wanders around in the forest, observing and interacting with childlike curiosity...until the sound of a woodpecker causes it to think there's machinegun fire. This makes it react in a scared, hyperaware state, and continued exposure causes its original combat programming to take over, reverting it to Killer Robot status and shredding a large section of the forest with its built-in minigun before snapping out of it. Seeing the destruction it wrought seems to cause Bastion to fall into a sort of shocked depression.
  • The word "gentle" to former child prostitute Kotoko Utsugi in Absolute Despair Girls. While she's fine with using the word herself, hearing others use it sets her off, as she would often be told that the men she was being prostituted to would be gentle with her.
  • The Temmies of Undertale really don't like muscles, which they find "not cute". Flexing in front of one causes it to run away frightened.

    Visual Novels 
  • In CLANNAD, Kotomi sees a bus crash and hearing that Ryou might have been on the bus caused her to have a Freak Out!. Observe.
  • In Higurashi: When They Cry, during the Tatarigoroshi arc, Keiichi accidentally triggers Satoko - who is at that point under a lot of stress from the constant abuse of her Evil Uncle - when he pats her head. It's generally a gesture she likes because it reminds her of her missing brother, Satoshi. However, when Keiichi tries to do it this time, it triggers all of the trauma she's holding back, and she has a complete breakdown.
  • Miles Edgeworth in the Ace Attorney series is severely affected by earthquakes. An earthquake and airplane turbulence cause him to faint in the fifth case of Trials and Tribulations and the second case of Ace Attorney Investigations respectively. This is because of the DL-6 incident where he, his father, and Yanni Yogi got trapped in an elevator because an earthquake forced it to stall, and his father was killed. Moreover, the incident causes Edgeworth to avoid elevators.
  • In the beta version of Katawa Shoujo Hisao having a heart attack triggers Hanako and throws her into a suicidal Heroic B.S.O.D. because as a child she saw a boy she liked get hit by a car. In her hysteria she believes that she caused Hisao to die.

    Webcomics 
  • Curio from morphE has this reaction to any mention of "where they came from". In Chapter 4 Amical threatens to send the seedlings back and he freaks out. Billy also suffers a horrible flashback to his own torture at this mention.
  • Kotomi from Cross Heart was raped by a man as a little girl after he said he was going to help her find her parents after she got lost. She has nightmares about it constantly and is distant from others, though with the help of her girlfriend she's becoming more sociable. One night when she was out at night, a man asked her if she was lost and she proceeded to start screaming and shielded herself. Luckily her girlfriend was around to get the guy to leave.
  • In Goblins, Kin is triggered by being trapped under a tree, since she used to be raped nightly be Dellyn Goblinslayer, who was part-tree.
  • Homestuck: Karkat's ancestor/double Kankri is a parody of a social justice warrior on Tumblr. He tries to be sensitive to the triggers of others except he'll bring up the triggering topic first and then apologize in the most patronizing way possible. Paraphrased example: Latula, Terezi's ancestor/double can't smell. Kankri talks about how something smells then apologizes for triggering and insulting her (it doesn't, and she's actually amused by it), and congratulates her on being able to achieve so much despite not being able to smell and also being a girl.
  • Played for Laughs in Kevin & Kell. Potentially as part of his rookie hazing for the Beige U. hunting team, Rudy was given a T-shirt which said "Trigger Warning".
  • In Sinfest, Slick sees the pit leading to Hell, and remembers when he was in Hell.
  • In Slightly Damned, being called or asked if she's "sick" makes Kieri go into a state of blacked-out rage, and she ends up beating a fellow angel to a bloody pulp because it triggers memories of her abusive mother.
    • For Sakido, the sight of berserk Buwaro causes her to have a flashback to when enfant berserk Buwaro clawed out Darius's eye.
  • Eli from Soul To Call has a complete breakdown and starts begging for mercy upon seeing someone hooked up to a siphon, having been tapped for blood himself so many times. James has to put him through breathing exercise in order to calm him down enough for him to be able to focus on some menial task that can take his mind off of what he just saw more fully.
  • National pride is one for Germany in Scandinavia and the World. Specifically, personal national pride; Germany is so traumatized by the events of World War II that any form of nationalism he might express will send him into a Heroic B.S.O.D. (see, for instance, what happened when the Nordics tried to celebrate his birthday).
  • Many Characters seem to be suffering serious trauma in Monster Kind. Each of the suffering characters are triggered differently, however it isn't yet mentioned why.

    Web Original 
  • Rise, an Original Character tournament game, has one of these for almost every character.
  • Flippy from Happy Tree Friends takes this trope to the extreme; anything can (and will) trigger his PTSD, sending him into a murderous rampage.
  • Attack on Titan Abridged has Titans as Eren's trigger. Played for Laughs.
  • Hellsing Ultimate Abridged has Alexander Anderson flinging knives at her being Seras' trigger. Alucard even says she's triggered, being annoyed about it.
  • The Adventures Of Duane And Brando: the Mario 3 musical has Mario call Iggy a "nerd with a fat head", which causes Iggy to freeze up and drop his wand, complete with the word "TRIGGERED" appearing in front of him.
  • Sword Art Online Abridged has the words "not your fault" for Kirito, which cause him to remember Sachi's death, and then forces him to engage in Chronic Hero Syndrome.
  • Worm: Parahumans all go through a "trigger event". Afterwards, being reminded of this can cause their powers to fluctuate significantly and often serves as a Berserk Button. Extreme examples of being exposed to their personal trigger can cause a second trigger event, unlocking additional powers.
  • The Dragon Ball Z Abridged version of Broly is triggered by hearing Goku's Saiyan name, "Kakarott", rather than just Goku's presence itself. Naturally, this leads to a scene where Vegeta insists on calling him that despite everyone else begging him to stop.
  • RWBY: After the events of Season 3, Yang Xiao Long has been reduced to a shell of her former self, and accidentally dropping a glass on the floor triggers a flashback of Adam cutting off her arm, leaving her a nervous wreck.

    Western Animation 
  • Played for laughs (inevitably enough) in Family Guy, where Peter's impersonation of Ralph from The Honeymooners triggers Lois' brother's memories of walking in on their mother's affair with Jackie Gleason (an event which put him into an insane asylum and turned him into a serial killer).
  • From the Thomas the Tank Engine episode "Escape":
    Edward: You and Trevor have a lot in common, you know.
    Douglas: And what might that be?
    Edward: Scrap.
    Douglas: Don't use that word! You're making my wheels wobble!
    • For clarification, Douglas and his brother are as close as two brothers can be, and when their old railway in Scotland stopped using steam engines like them, they were on the chopping block. Even going to the Isle of Sodor didn't give them any relief at first, as the Fat Controller had only intended to purchase one engine, and spent some time deciding which one to send back, which they both knew was a death sentence. Only a deputation by Percy saved them both.
  • The Fairly Oddparents: Want to send Cosmo into a Troubled Fetal Position? Just say "super toilet!"
  • SpongeBob SquarePants: The word "evil" is enough to send Mermaid Man into a frenzy.
  • Ed, Edd n Eddy: In "No Speak Da Ed", Rolf flies into a violent rage whenever he encounters something wolf related. In a rather disturbing twist, it's implied that back in The Old Country, his family was in a bloody conflict with a family of sheep rustlers who associated themselves with wolves.
  • The Legend of Korra: After the events at the end of season 3, Korra clearly has a major case of PTSD to work through, and every time she's placed in a combat situation risks a paralyzing flashback to Zaheer poisoning and asphyxiating her. She finally manages to overcome this trigger and move on with her life after she confronts Zaheer in prison.
  • In X-Men, after Morph rejoins the team, he has the misfortune of having to go up against the Sentinels, who killed him way back in the first episode. The sight of one of their footprints is enough to cause him to suffer a flashback.
  • Samurai Jack has become this for Aku as of Season 5; when talking about his frustrations with his "therapist" (who's also himself) he cuts himself off upon mentioning Jack and assures himself that his lair is "a safe place". The Scotsman praising Jack after Aku destroys an attacking army is enough to kill off any enjoyment he might have gotten out of the act, such that he just slinks back to his lair and lets the Scotsman's daughters escape.
  • Hey Arnold!: The episodes "Parent's Day" and "The Journal" shows Arnold being reminded of his long-lost and presumably deceased parents. It is one of the few things that saddens him and other characters take notice of this too.
  • Stimpy, being the "eediot" that he is, has the, uh..."worst" possible one anyone (let alone the show's creator) can think of:
    Ren: It's mister litter box, come one! Take a stinky one (scratches steps)! Nice and stinky!
    Stimpy: Stinky...wwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwWAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH-HAH-HAH-HAH-HAH-HAH-HAH-HAH-HAAH!! WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH-HAH-HAH-HAH-HAH-HAH-HAH-HAH-HAH-HAH-HAH!!! (sniffle) BOO-hoo-hoo-hoo-hoo-hoo-hoo! Boo-HOO, hoo-hoo-hoo-hoo-hoo-hoo...
    Ren: So THAT's it! YOU'RE still crying about your imaginary BUTT stinkyness!
    Stimpy: I'm not listening to this anymore! He's REAL! He's REAL!! HE'S REAL!!!note 

Alternative Title(s): Oblivious Trauma Triggering, Trigger

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/TraumaButton