EDGI Trigger Warning Statement
Here we outline our policy and background research on trigger warnings. We sometimes receive requests for trigger warnings to be placed on our paid advertisements. All of the requests we receive are taken very seriously and we have made sure to thoroughly research best practices on the use of trigger warnings. Our aim is to make sure we do what’s best for both our participants and social media viewers. Although little research has been conducted on the use of trigger warnings in scenarios specific to eating disorders, we did find research we discuss below that looked at the effectiveness of trigger warnings for people with experience of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and different traumas.
Research on the benefits of trigger warnings have found mixed results. Some studies show that trigger warnings can help viewers avoid distressing content on social media. They can allow the viewer to mentally prepare for the upcoming content which may cause a less intense emotional response when viewing the material (1,2,3). However, most studies have found that trigger warnings are perceived by participants as being ineffective, and that they actually had little to no impact on distress levels (1). Other studies have reported that the inclusion of trigger warnings increased levels of anxiety and distress, encouraged counter therapeutic behaviours to avoid the topic, and increased feelings of vulnerability to trauma (3,4,5,6). These in turn can unintentionally make it more difficult for a person to cope as well as reinforce their trauma as part of their identity (3,5).
In this case, we have chosen to no longer use trigger warnings or content warnings on our adverts, as it is our utmost priority to not cause any distress to our viewers. Our adverts are designed to contain as little triggering content as is possible. For example, our content does not contain common triggers reported by the community, such as the mentioning of specific weights, or numbers. We also do not include triggering images, such as those of specific body parts. Our considered view is that, in this case, the negative consequences of trigger warnings outweigh their benefits as using them may only add to the negativity and stigma surrounding an already sensitive topic. We hope you understand our decision. If you have any suggestions that you would like to be considered, please email us at EDGI@kcl.ac.uk.
(1) Sanson, M., Strange, D., & Garry, M. (2019). Trigger Warnings Are Trivially Helpful at Reducing Negative Affect, Intrusive Thoughts, and Avoidance. Clinical Psychological Science, 7(4), 778–793. https://doi.org/10.1177/2167702619827018
(2) Gross, J. J. (1998). Antecedent- and response-focused emotion regulation: Divergent consequences for experience, expression, and physiology. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 74, 224–237. doi:10.1037/0022-35126.96.36.199
(3) Gainsburg, I., & Earl, A. (2018). Trigger warnings as an interpersonal emotion-regulation tool: Avoidance, attention, and affect depend on beliefs. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 79, 252-263.
(4) Bellet, B. W., Jones, P. J., McNally, R. J. (2018). Trigger warning: Empirical evidence ahead. Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry, 61, 134–141. doi:10.1016/j.jbtep.2018.07.002.
(5) Bellet, B. W., Jones, P. J., Meyersburg, C. A., Brenneman, M. M., Morehead, K. E., & McNally, R. J. (2020). Trigger warnings and resilience in college students: A preregistered replication and extension. Journal of experimental psychology: applied.
(6) Shafir, R., & Sheppes, G. (2020). How anticipatory information shapes subsequent emotion regulation. Emotion, 20(1), 68–74. https://doi.org/10.1037/emo0000673