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What Is Generational Trauma And How Does It Work?

What Is Generational Trauma And How Does It Work?
What Is Generational Trauma And How Does It Work?

Within a family, there are many things that get passed on between different members. If you had an older sibling, there’s a good chance that they passed on their clothes or toys. You may have received certain traits from your parents, like your hair and eye color, skin tone, freckles, blood type, or even your dominant hand. What you might not have realized is that certain inherited traits are passed on from generation to generation. Trauma may even be one of those traits. Yes, generational trauma is, in fact, a real type of trauma that you may have received from your own family.

Let’s learn more about generational trauma and how it works.

What is Generational Trauma?

Generational trauma is trauma that is passed on from one generation to the next. This type of trauma is caused by a negative experience or stressor that can be passed on between family members. Just like other forms of trauma, it can happen directly, through witnessing a traumatic event, or through living through a traumatic experience.

The Signs and Symptoms

Generational trauma shares a lot of the same signs and symptoms as any other form of trauma.

Here are some of the most common signs and symptoms of generational trauma:

  • Addiction

  • Anger issues

  • Anxiety

  • Chronic pain

  • Depression

  • Domestic violence

  • Eating disorders

  • Fear of death

  • Hypervigilance

  • Insomnia

  • Irritability

  • Lack of trust

  • Low self-esteem

  • No hope for the future

  • Sexual abuse

  • Substance use or abuse

  • Panic attacks

  • Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

The Cause

Generational trauma is something that can be passed on to other family members through DNA. Not everyone who experiences generational trauma will pass it on, though. Many factors are involved when it comes to generational trauma and the chance of inheriting it.

Here are a few of the most common causes of generational trauma:

  • Genocide

  • Natural disasters

  • Oppression

  • Racism

  • Sexism

  • Slavery

  • War

How to Heal from Generational Trauma

Treatment options are available for generational trauma. There are even some things that you can implement on your end to try to start initiating healthier coping mechanisms and strategies.

Acknowledge Your Trauma

The first step towards finding healthy ways to cope with your trauma is identifying and recognizing the trauma and its effects. Identify how the trauma is affecting you and other members of your family.

Talk to Someone

If you feel comfortable, talk to a family member about what’s been going on. Otherwise, if you don’t feel comfortable talking about the generational trauma within your family, reach out to a friend for support.

Educate Yourself

Taking the time to educate yourself about your family trauma can help you learn about your specific experiences. You may even be able to find a connecting point or topic of conversation when you feel comfortable discussing it with your loved ones.

Practice Self Care

When you’re going through a traumatic experience, it can be easy to dismiss your own needs completely. Try not to do this. Make sure you’re taking care of yourself during this time. Fuel your body properly with the right nutrition and proper rest. Find ways to relax and unwind as well, like going for a walk outside, listening to music, or practicing meditation.

Seek Professional Help

Generational trauma doesn’t have to keep continuing throughout more generations. Reaching out to an unbiased third party like a therapist may be exactly what you need to help you better understand and move past your generational trauma.

With the right amount of time, dedication, and effort, you’ll be on your way toward a path of healing. Reach out to us today to set up a consultation.


Through Therapy Collective

Our team of culturally competent therapists is here to offer a warm and safe space to help you navigate life’s hardships with a sense of encouragement and empathy. Find out more >



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