If you've been following my posts, you'll recall that external triggers are things that occur outside of ourselves that are usually (but not always) intimately linked with an internal trigger, such as a thought, feeling, memory, image, or body sensation. This post is part four in a series that I've affectionately titled, "Out of the Blue to Blue's Clues, finding Clues for your Anxiety Triggers."
External Triggers Include:
Over-stimulation (Too many external stimuli)
Under-stimulation (Too little external stimuli)
Things experienced by senses (Sights, Sounds, Smells)
When I was in high school I worked for an amazing woman who could multi-task and not miss a beat. All at one time she would eat her lunch, talk on the telephone, have the radio on an all-news station, and a TV tuned to a soap opera. What perplexed me was the fact that she seemed to know what was going on with the soap opera, the news, and her phone conversation. Just having the radio on along with the TV was bothersome to me, and there is no way I could talk on the phone and enjoy a lunch at the same time!
Over-stimulation occurs when too much is going on for us to handle. Although I can count on one hand the number of times I've been to a Nightclub, what I recall is that they are perfect examples of over-stimulating environments. They can be crowded (so one can feel "closed in"), smoky (when smoking is still allowed), and noisy. There is significant crowd noise as well as music such that it's hard to hear a conversation or hear the words to the music. The nightclub might be dark with strobe lights or other brightly covered lights. All of these factors can be somewhat disorienting, or lead to the physical sensation of unreality. Add some alcohol to the mix and those sensations can intensify. Some people like those sensation (hence the popularity of night clubs). For other people, they trigger anxiety.
Another good example of a potentially over-stimulating environment is some shopping malls. When I first started working as a therapist I lived near a very large and popular shopping mall with many major department stores. There was one large department store in particular that I thought was amazingly designed. The floor plan was essentially a circle, with various entrances and exits to both the parking lot and the mall. The interesting things to me were, however, that the exits were not clearly visible from many parts of the store, and it was extremely easy to lose track of where you had entered the store. In other words, it was easy to get lost in the store!
Other factors about the store (and common to many department stores) included the fact that it was brightly lit with fluorescent lighting and that it was often crowded. The combination of the layout, the lighting, and the crowdedness was over-stimulating for a number of my clients.
What situations do you find over-stimulating? Ask yourself while in different enviroments (restaurants, concerts, malls, etc) if you are being overstimulated.