What is Intergenerational Trauma?

What is Intergenerational Trauma?

Intergenerational trauma refers to trauma that is passed from a trauma survivor to their descendants. It can also be referred to as transgenerational or multigenerational trauma.

People experiencing intergenerational trauma may experience symptoms, reactions, patterns, and emotional and psychological effects from trauma experienced by previous generations (not limited to just parents or grandparents).

What does intergenerational trauma look like?

Someone who has experienced trauma might struggle to feel calm in situations that are objectively safe due to anxiety that another traumatic event will occur. When this occurs, the trauma response can be harmful rather than adaptive.

Remaining in “survival mode” can limit one’s ability to thrive, as living in survival mode is founded in response to fear/trauma/scarcity. Thriving is possible when there is a developed sense and lived experience of safety and security, which people suffering from intergenerational trauma may not have a model/cellular knowing or foundation for.

Those affected by intergenerational trauma might experience symptoms similar to that of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), including hypervigilance, anxiety, and mood dysregulation.

However, because the individual did not directly experience the trauma themselves, they will not experience flashbacks or intrusive memories. They experience trauma symptoms and trauma responses from events that did not occur to them; rather, the response is inherited genetically.

Because stress responses are linked to more physical health issues, intergenerational trauma can also manifest as medical issues including heart disease, stroke, or early death.

What causes intergenerational trauma?

Intergenerational trauma occurs when the effects of trauma are passed down between generations. This can occur if a parent experienced abuse as a child or Adverse Childhood Experiences, and the cycle of trauma and abuse impacts their parenting.

How can therapy help with intergenerational trauma?

Intergenerational trauma therapy aims to address and heal the lingering effects of trauma passed down from one generation to the next. This type of therapy typically involves exploring the experiences and emotions related to the trauma, developing a greater understanding of the trauma’s impact on one’s life, and learning coping skills and strategies to help manage its effects. It may also involve addressing intergenerational patterns and beliefs that contribute to the perpetuation of trauma. Therapy can be done individually or in a group setting and may include various therapeutic approaches such as cognitive-behavioral therapy, trauma-focused therapy, and other evidence-based treatments.

Therapeutic Self Care and it’s providers have helped many patients facing generational trauma. Contact us to make an appointment today.

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