Learn the 7 Ways to Stop Generational Trauma and Heal Your Family Now

generational trauma

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Have you ever wondered why some experiences, events, and traumas seem to follow us through generations? Do your family members share certain negative emotions, abusive behaviors, or harmful beliefs? If so, chances are you have experienced generational trauma.

Generational trauma is an intergenerational transfer of traumatic experiences from one generation to another. It can manifest in physical and mental health problems across generations and cause long-term psychological harm to individuals affected.

This blog post will explore generational trauma, its causes and signs, coping strategies, and how to prevent it for future generations.

What Is Generational Trauma?

Generational trauma is a type of trauma that affects individuals and families across generations. It is the intergenerational transfer of traumatic experiences, emotions, beliefs, and behaviors from generation to generation. This means that traumas experienced by one generation may be passed down to subsequent generations in their family.

How Generational Trauma Is Passed Down?

Generational trauma is often passed down through genetics, epigenetics, and environmental, social, and cultural influences. Here is a breakdown of each of the common influential factors of this trauma:


Genetic transmission of trauma has been documented in studies on Holocaust survivors and their descendants, who showed signs of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) despite never having experienced the event. This suggests that trauma can be transmitted to subsequent generations at a genetic level during pregnancy.


Epigenetics can also play a role in passing down trauma from generation to generation. Traumatic experiences can change how genes are expressed, which can be passed down from parent to child. While the exact mechanism is unknown, research suggests that a traumatic experience and its associated memories can become embedded into an individual’s DNA over time.


Generational trauma is also influenced by environmental and social factors.

Environmental factors include:

  • War
  • Poverty
  • Natural disasters
  • Racism and systematic oppression
  • Social isolation caused by discrimination or exclusion
  • Living in households with parents or grandparents who have experienced traumatic events
  • Exposure to heightened levels of stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline
  • Absorbing beliefs related to the trauma
  • Unstable family dynamics, including divorce, abandonment, abuse, neglect

An example of an environmental factor causing intergenerational trauma would be abuse in the home. Often, abusive behavior is used to handle stress and emotional issues. Children learn that this is how they should express frustration and anger, which can lead to the abuse of their children later in life.


Lastly, cultural influences can affect how intergenerational trauma is passed down from one generation to the next.

A family’s culture can shape their outlook on life and how they react to certain events or stressful situations they encounter throughout their lives. This means that even if someone hasn’t experienced a traumatic event personally, they may still be affected by it through their family’s culture and beliefs.

Cultural influences also can affect a family’s parenting style. This can also contribute to and perpetuate generational trauma over time.

Also, intergenerational trauma includes multiple areas of traumatic influence. For example, a family could have genetic, environmental, and cultural factors that have influenced the impact of trauma on their family over generations.

The Signs of Generational Trauma

Although each person can show signs of generational trauma differently, there are some tell-tale signs that this type of abuse is occurring.

Emotional and psychological signs of generational trauma can include feelings of:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Guilt
  • Shame

Physical signs can include:

  • Chronic pain and fatigue
  • Immune system issues
  • Digestive problems
  • Substance abuse

Other signs of generational trauma include:

  • Difficulty forming meaningful relationships with others due to fear or mistrust
  • Struggling to find stable employment and maintain financial security over time.
  • Longstanding beliefs and behaviors that have been passed down from generation to generation
  • Experiencing triggers related to the traumatic event when faced with certain stressful situations

Take note if you are experiencing any of these trauma signals. The occurrence of one or more of these signs does not always mean there is intergenerational trauma present, but with several signs, it can be likely.

How to Manage Symptoms and Heal From Generational Trauma

When dealing with generational trauma, it is important to understand the various strategies and treatments available to manage symptoms and heal from this type of trauma. It is essential for those affected to take an active role in their healing process and seek professional help if needed.

Therapy and Counseling:

One of the most effective ways to process and cope with generational trauma is through therapy and counseling sessions. A therapist or counselor can provide a safe space where people can explore their feelings and thoughts related to their childhood trauma without judgment or shame.

During these sessions, individuals can learn coping skills such as relaxation techniques, cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), narrative therapy, and other evidence-based therapies to help them better manage their emotions.

Working with a professional therapist or counselor can also be beneficial in understanding how the traumatic event has impacted one’s family over generations, thus allowing them to better understand how they have been affected by it personally.

Peer Support Groups:

Finding support among peers going through similar situations can be another way of managing symptoms associated with generational trauma. Connecting with others who share similar experiences can create a sense of safety and belonging that may not be easily found elsewhere.

In peer support groups, members can utilize strategies such as group discussion, storytelling, role play, art activities, journaling exercises, etc., all while in a supportive environment where they feel secure enough to express themselves authentically without fear of judgment.

These healing activities allow members to gain insight into their own experiences while having support from fellow group members who are willing to listen and provide emotional connection when they feel overwhelmed by what they are going through.

Doctor Evaluation:

If you are experiencing the physical symptoms listed above, it is a good idea to seek a physical evaluation by your doctor to rule out any serious issues you may be experiencing.

For instance, digestive issues are common in a high-stress environment, including recurring trauma in a family dynamic. It is a good idea to rule out any serious stomach issues or allergies before assuming it is purely from stress or anxiety.

Self-Care Practices:

Self-care practices should also be utilized alongside other treatment methods for managing symptoms associated with generational trauma.

Examples of self-care practices include:

  • Exercise
  • Eating nutritious food
  • Getting enough sleep
  • Engaging in creative activities like writing or drawing
  • Connecting with nature by spending time outdoors
  • Indulging in hobbies and interests that bring joy
  • Practicing mindfulness meditation or yoga
  • Listening to music that uplifts one’s mood
  • Seeking out social connections among friends or family members who provide unwavering love and support

Regularly implementing self-care practices helps strengthen one’s emotional wellbeing while providing an outlet for processing any difficult emotions that may arise due to generational trauma.

Overall, many strategies are available for those affected by generational trauma to manage symptoms and begin the healing process.

How to Stop Generational Trauma in Your Family

One way to stop this type of trauma is to oppose the forces that cause it. Here are some examples of ways to prevent intergenerational trauma in your family:

Educate oneself: Learning about the causes and effects of generational trauma can help individuals understand how it affects their family and how to break the cycle.

Communicate openly: Talking about the past and sharing experiences can help break the silence and shame surrounding generational trauma.

Identify triggers: Identifying situations or events that trigger emotional reactions can help individuals avoid or prepare for them.

Break the cycle: Making a conscious effort to break patterns of behavior and thinking that perpetuate trauma can help create a healthier family dynamic.

Seek support: Connecting with others who have experienced similar trauma can provide validation, support, and a sense of community.

Seek therapy: Talking to a mental health professional can help individuals understand the impact of generational trauma on their lives and develop strategies to cope with it.

Practice self-care: As mentioned before, engaging in activities that promote mental, emotional, and physical wellbeing can help individuals build resilience and cope with the effects of trauma.

If you take these preventative measures, you can begin to unravel intergenerational trauma’s impact on your family’s ability to thrive as individuals and connect as a unit.

Does Generational Trauma Feel Too Much To Handle on Your Own?

If you feel overwhelmed about where to begin healing from generational trauma, seeking a licensed therapist is a great way to start! Through therapy, individuals can better understand how the trauma has impacted their family over generations and develop strategies to cope with it.

A therapist can also help identify triggers that may cause an emotional reaction, such as certain events or situations leading to difficult feelings and memories. By recognizing these triggers, individuals can work on better managing them when they arise.

Therapy is also a great source of support when dealing with generational trauma. Having someone experienced in this type of trauma can provide validation, understanding, and empathy when you feel overwhelmed by what you are going through.


Generational trauma can be a difficult and overwhelming experience to go through on your own. However, healing and thriving with the right resources and support is possible.

If you are struggling with generational trauma or simply want more information about how it affects families over time, we are here to help! Give us a call or make an appointment to connect with one of our licensed therapists and start your healing journey today!

By taking action now, we will create healthier family dynamics within our communities for generations to come.

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Picture of Sara Makin MSEd, LPC, NCC

Sara Makin MSEd, LPC, NCC

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