What Is Generational Trauma? Signs, Causes, & How to Heal

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Sarvika Aggarwal

25 February 2024

8 Mins

Have you ever come across the concept of generational trauma? You must have heard about it on social media, from psychologists, and how it gets passed on to the next generation.

But what does it mean? How trauma gets passed down through generations? and how to heal generational trauma? Let’s get into it.

what is generational trauma?

What Is Generational Trauma?

Trauma is described as an unpleasant event or situation leading to an adverse emotional or physical reaction. Trauma makes up the entire personality of the person and is a guiding light on how they view the world. So if someone carries a heavy trauma or emotional load, it can be difficult for them to lead a happy and healthy life.

Connect it with generational trauma—generational trauma definition becomes that you get from your parents or that is ancestral trauma. This can be both mental and physical and it tends to show up in our behaviour and reactions.

Mostly, it comes in the form of anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, bipolar disorder, heart problems, and even family patterns that can make or break the relationships of other family members or future relationships.

It can be quite hard to understand generational trauma on your own; talk to a professional expert and get rid of it for free.

Signs & Symptoms of Generational Trauma

If someone is carrying generational trauma, it might be difficult to comprehend with the naked eye; however, here are some signs and symptoms of it to see if “is generational trauma real” or is it really hindering my overall lifestyle.

  1. Self-doubt
  2. Anxiety
  3. Depression
  4. Emotional numbness
  5. Difficulty forming intimate relationships
  6. PTSD symptoms
  7. Feeling detached from people and surroundings
  8. Loss of interest in favorite activities
  9. Overthinking
  10. Strict, unhealthy boundaries

While these are some of the generational trauma symptoms, people also question, “Is trauma passed down genetically?” which some experts believe can be true, and in such cases, it can be difficult to notice the signs or get rid of them completely.

However, when you see yourself or other people carrying these signs, it is important to help yourself or them get out of it in an effective and strategic manner.

signs and symptoms of generational trauma

What Causes Generational Trauma?

There are many causes of generational trauma that happen and are passed down through generations. Some of those causes are as follows:

1. Abuse

Abuse in any form can wreck a person from the inside. Whether it is emotional, physical, verbal, or sexual, it can change the person from the inside and out, fueling them with fear and trauma. This trauma, if not treated at the right time, can be reflected in the relationships a person holds and can even be transferred to children, ruining their future relationships, which is how trauma gets passed down through generations.

2. War

People in the armed services who have fought for their country often carry PTSD. While having it is normal if you have been in a war, it is quite important to talk about it and share how you feel about it rather than keep it all within you. If a person does that, it can hinder their mental state, lead to nightmares, and disturb their overall lifestyle. Moreover, if they make relationships in the future and have kids, it can very easily be passed on to them as well.

war

3. Discrimination

Facing discrimination, whether it is of minority-majority, or of being affluent or poor, can create a mental image inside you that you are not enough or that whatever you try to achieve in life, you simply do not deserve that. This learned pattern can be easily transferred to your children or the person you form a relationship with, which leads to an unending cycle of generational or ancestral trauma.

4. Natural disaster

Being in a natural disaster like a flood, tsunami, or earthquake can really shake a person from the inside, building a fear of that phenomenon. So while that person has that fear, it can be easily transferred to the kids and the people around them, which can cause them to start fearing it, leading to intergenerational trauma.

natural disaster

5. Racism

Facing racism and being treated indifferently as a minority can be a serious attack on a person’s psyche. This can make the person feel like an outcast and that they do not belong with anyone, which can even lead to depression or anxiety. This learned pattern or society’s response can make the person protect themselves in a way where they do not compete with such people. They make sure to avoid them and teach their kids the same things they experienced themselves.

6. Genetic makeup

A lot of people have the tendency to be anxious or depressed because their genetic makeup is inherited in such a way. So if a parent has inherited anxiety or depression genetics from their parents, there are high chances that their children might get one too. Not only this, but if a mother is under stress or not kept mentally well when they are pregnant, even that can lead to generational trauma.

genetic makeup

7. Childhood trauma

Unhealed childhood conflicts or trauma that have hindered a person’s way of perceiving things can come between their future relationships and how they view love. Not only this, but it can also hinder their children’s view of perceiving things and that is what starts the loop of intergenerational trauma.

8. Insecure attachment style

The way a person is parented, loved, and cared for in their upbringing says a lot about how they perceive the world and relationships. If they are not given proper care or attention, it can lead to an insecure attachment style, which can hinder the relationships they seek out in the future, and if this pattern is not addressed, it can even be passed on to the next generation.

There can be many causes of generational trauma; talk to a professional expert to understand it in-depth for free.

How Is Generational Trauma Diagnosed?

There is no set procedure to diagnose generational trauma; it can be done when a professional actually sits with the client, listens to their side of the story and understands their concerns and the root cause behind them. After taking their full medical and psychological history, they can comprehend what may have led to such a situation. While the reasons can be many, the client reveals patterns and things that hint towards generational trauma, and only then can a professional fully point towards it and make a comprehensive plan to rectify it.

So in a nutshell, there are no specific diagnostic signs or symptoms listed in the DSM that can determine if a person has generational trauma or not. However, if they are dealing with anxiety, depression, low self-worth, or childhood trauma, it might be somewhere connected to generational trauma, but the only way to be sure is to take therapy and unveil all patterns so that the therapist can help you get rid of them and make new learnings for yourself.

how is generational trauma diagnosed?

Treatments for Generational Trauma

There is no one treatment to heal generational trauma, as it depends on the type of trauma and the person carrying it. However, here are the many types of treatment for generational trauma are:

  1. Psychotherapy
  2. Cognitive behavioral therapy
  3. Support group
  4. Group therapy
  5. Talk therapy

Therapy is not one size fits all, so if you are not able to find the right therapist or therapy that can help you heal your trauma, connect with a professional to understand what kind of therapist or therapy you are looking for first.

treatments for generational trauma

How to Prevent Generational Trauma

Educating people about generational trauma and making them realize how it can seriously hinder their lives is the first and foremost step to preventing generational trauma and working towards getting rid of it.

However, you can also do the following things to prevent generational trauma:

  1. Sit with yourself
  2. Introspection
  3. Joining a support group
  4. Taking therapy
  5. Sharing it with your loved ones
  6. Giving yourself space to heal
  7. Journaling
  8. Understanding your unhealthy patterns

While there are many different ways to prevent generational trauma, it is important to understand that carrying generational trauma is normal, but whether you wish to get rid of it or not is a choice. Moreover, if you choose to work on it, remember that it is going to be a tough road and healing yourself wouldn’t be that easy.

However, that shouldn’t stop you from going down the healing road. Give yourself time and space to understand your trauma and make new patterns for yourself that align with your current personality.

how to prevent generational trauma?

Work Towards Healing Generational Trauma With Now&Me

If you do not understand how to get rid of generational trauma, connect with qualified professionals on Now&Me and look at your trauma from an objective perspective. Learn to get rid of it in a healthy and effective way with your first chat for free.

However, if you are not ready to take therapy, you can even become a part of the Now&Me community, where you can chat with like-minded people and get to know their personal stories on how does generational trauma work and how parents pass down trauma. If not anything, this will help you feel less alone and like you belong somewhere.

Moreover, you can even get thoroughly vetted resources and self-help books on Now&Me to help you work through your generational trauma in a compassionate way. Download the app and start your healing journey right away!

Living with generational trauma can be quite difficult; talk to a professional expert and get to the bottom of it for free.

Sources

  1. What Is Generational Trauma. Health. Published August 2023. https://www.health.com/condition/ptsd/generational-trauma

  2. What Is Generational Trauma? Signs, Causes, & How to Heal. Talkspace. Published February 2023. https://www.talkspace.com/blog/generational-trauma/

Now&Me articles are written by experienced mental health contributors and are purely based on scientific research and evidence-based practices, which are thoroughly reviewed by experts, including therapists and psychologists with various specialties, to ensure accuracy and alignment with current industry standards.

However, it is important to note that the information provided is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Individual circumstances vary, and it is advisable to consult with a qualified mental health professional for personalized advice and guidance.

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