open/close all folders
Anime and Manga
- 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 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, due to a decade of emotional trauma, her thinking herself as a monster as what people say, until relatively recently.
- 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.
- 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 ARCV 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.
- In the first issue of Batgirl, Barbara Gordon, who only recently recovered from being paralyzed after being shot by The Joker, freezes up when a villain points his gun at the exact spot where she was shot previously.
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 10 had an issue called "Triggers", concerning an Incubus sexual predator.
- 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 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.
- 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 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.
- 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.
- Seeing the "savage" animals muzzled causes Nick to have flashbacks to when he tried to join the Junior Ranger Scouts and the other kids shoved a muzzle on him because he was a predator.
- A fox bully clawing her face when she was a child has made certain behavior from foxes a trigger for Judy, as well. She's instantly put on edge the first time she sees Nick, and when Nick starts imitating a savage predator in the above-mentioned 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.
- 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.
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 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 Suns 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.
- 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.
- 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 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 provides the page image for Allergic to Love) and whenever a woman goes to touch him. he recoils away in fear and sometimes even runs. He doesn't know why, an 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.
- 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.
- In Sinfest, Slick sees the pit leading to Hell, and remembers when he was in Hell.
- 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.
- 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 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.
- 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.
- 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 Donald 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!"
Cosmo: So. much. clogging!
- SpongeBob SquarePants: The word "evil" is enough to send Mermaid Man into a frenzy.
- Ed, Edd 'n' Eddy: Rolf flies into a violent rage whenever he encounters something wolf related. In a rather disturbing twist, it's implied that his family was in a bloody conflict with a family who associated themselves with wolves in the past.
- 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.