What is Generational Trauma and What are its Effects?

When people think of the trauma that leads to the development of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), they may think of a traumatic event that has been experienced specifically by the individual diagnosed with PTSD. Experiencing trauma can have lasting effects and bring about symptoms of PTSD that include flashbacks, nightmares, avoidance behaviors, and mood swings. But, there are various forms of PTSD and one of these forms can actually transfer the effects of trauma onto future generations, known as generational trauma. But, what is generational trauma, and is it something that your family is experiencing?

What is Generational Trauma?

Generational trauma is when the effects of PTSD impact and continue from one generation to future generations. Families are more likely to experience the negative effects of trauma if past generations have lived through traumatic events. Some of the traumatic experiences that can lead to generational trauma include poverty, war, abuse, neglect, racism, natural disasters, and other traumatic experiences. It’s believed that the effects of trauma transfer from one generation to future generations because trauma can lead to physical and biological side effects including a change in DNA. This genetic impact allows behaviors and side effects of trauma to be passed onto further generations. So, if your parents or grandparents have experienced trauma, your generation is at a higher risk for experiencing the symptoms of this mental health issue.

What are the Symptoms of This Type of Trauma?

Generational trauma may showcase some of the same symptoms of first-hand traumatic experiences. But, it can also present a number of different symptoms that traditionally experienced trauma as well. Some of the symptoms of this mental health issue can include:

  • higher risk of developing mental health issues like depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and substance abuse disorder
  • avoidance behaviors
  • issues with trusting others
  • mood swings
  • experiencing panic attacks (panic disorder)
  • inability to sleep or stay asleep
  • increased fight or flight response
  • trouble with relationships
  • intrusive thoughts

Getting a Diagnosis for This Type of Trauma

Generational trauma isn’t something that’s diagnosable according to the DSM-5, a mental health diagnostic tool that psychiatrists utilize in order to establish mental health diagnoses. However, generational trauma is something that’s widely accepted by the mental health community as a legitimate mental health issue. So, there are some signs and symptoms of this mental health issue that mental health specialists can utilize to determine if you or your family is dealing with this type of disorder.

Treatments and Therapy for Generational Trauma

PTSD recovery programs and treatment services can help people identify if they and their families may be struggling with the impacts of generational trauma. And, develop the education and coping skills needed to overcome these impacts. For instance, the PTSD program available through Delray Brain Science offers assistance to individuals who are negatively affected by all types of trauma, including generational trauma. Find out more about our PTSD program on our website today to gain more insight into our outpatient approach to helping people living with the negative impacts of trauma.