Please note that this is an Archived article and may contain content that is out of date. The use of she/her/hers pronouns in some articles is not intended to be exclusionary. Eating disorders can affect people of all genders, ages, races, religions, ethnicities, sexual orientations, body shapes, and weights.

Let’s Talk About … Triggers With Nicole Hawkins, PhD, CEDS-S

Recently in Body Image group we discussed triggers. Triggers are external events or circumstances that may produce very uncomfortable emotional or psychological symptoms, such as anxiety, panic, discouragement, despair or negative self-talk. I like this quote by Vienna Pharaonic but I had to add a qualifier to it. I believe it is okay to avoid your triggers when you are first on your path to recovery. When I was first recovering, I felt I needed to put myself in challenging or triggering situations “to prove” I could handle it. Now, I have learned as a recovered person, that part of being recovered, is not putting myself in highly triggering environments or situations. It is called good self-care to protect and nurture yourself. As you move towards recovery, I like Thomas Cash’s TIDE model at looking at triggers. T- Stands for the Types of emotions you felt. I- Stands for Intensity of emotions. D-Stands for Duration. E- Stands for Effects of the episode on your behavior. Part of the healing process, is to continue to have triggers and then to decrease the type of emotions, intensity, duration and not have the trigger lead to negative behaviors. We want the TIDE to decrease and not to get caught up in a turbulent TIDE. My patients often ask me, “do you get triggered?” and the answer is always YES! We can still get triggered in recovery but a trigger does not need to lead to destructive and negative behaviors. Write down a list of positive coping skills you can practice the next time you get triggered, know your triggers and be well prepared for them. Triggers are part of our journey and recovery path, we can learn from them and grow stronger!

Dr. Hawkins is a clinical psychologist and is the Chief Executive Officer at Center for Change.  She is a specialist in eating disorders and body image and has provided clinical expertise at Center for Change since 1999. Dr. Hawkins developed a comprehensive body image program that focuses on the media, diet industry, plastic surgery, childhood issues, and learning to appreciate one’s body, and she leads these groups for the Inpatient and Residential patients at Center for Change.  She is a Certified Eating Disorders Specialist (Supervisor), has published several articles, and presents regularly at national and regional conferences.

Center for Change is a place of hope and healing that is committed to helping those suffering from eating disorders break free and fully recover.  The Center offers intensive treatment for eating disorders and co-occurring issues, including a specialty program for co-occurring diabetes (ED-DMT1), and provides a full continuum of care: Inpatient, Residential, Partial Hospitalization Program, Intensive Outpatient Program, and Outpatient services. Located in Orem Utah, Cottonwood Heights (Salt Lake City) Utah, and Boise Idaho, serving females in Inpatient and Residential, and all genders in PHP, IOP, and Outpatient.  Accredited by The Joint Commission, AdvancED, and TRICARE® certified.