What Is Generational Trauma and How Does It Affect Me?
Healing from the wounds of the past can feel complicated and intimidating, especially for those reaping the consequences of generational trauma. Luckily, healing doesn’t have to be done alone. Generational trauma can affect us in all kinds of ways, but the good news is that healing is possible! Before we discuss how we can heal from the hard things we’ve been through, we first need to discuss the basics.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) defines trauma as “an event or circumstance resulting in:
Trauma is subjective, and traumatic events have different effects on people. What is traumatic to one person may not be traumatic to someone else who experienced the same event. The National Institute on Mental Health (NIMH) explains that feeling fear after experiencing a traumatic event is normal, stating, “Fear is a part of the body’s “fight-or-flight” response, which helps us avoid or respond to potential danger. People may experience a range of reactions after trauma, including:
Some people recover from these reactions quickly, while for others, symptoms can continue long after a seemingly traumatic event has occurred. When this happens, many people develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). SAMHSA explains that PTSD can happen to anyone at any time after a traumatic event. Some symptoms show up shortly after the event, while others may take months or years to surface. They explain that some symptoms of PTSD may include:
Generational trauma is a type of environmental or biological trauma that can be passed down through families. Examples of generational trauma can include:
In “Transcending Historical Trauma” from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Office of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI), the author explains that survivors of generational trauma may experience symptoms such as:
Another way generational trauma can impact individuals is through substance use. People with a family history of substance use are at a much higher risk to struggle with addiction. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) explains, “Scientists estimate that genes, including the effects environmental factors have on a person’s gene expression, called epigenetics, account for between 40 and 60 percent of a person’s risk of addiction.”
NIDA further details that biological factors can influence a person’s risk of addiction, including:
The good news is that, even though generational trauma may be unavoidable, it doesn’t have to continue. Treatment is available and recovery is possible. Since trauma is experienced differently by each person, treatment will also look different. The types of techniques offered will be dependent upon the clinician’s expertise as well as the patient’s individual needs. Two common evidence-based techniques that we offer at Sage Recovery include cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR).
Both CBT and EMDR are forms of psychotherapy, in which the patient talks with a licensed clinician who helps them process their thoughts, feelings, and experiences healthily. CBT is used to empower the patient to learn how to reprocess current negative or unpleasant thoughts/behaviors into healthy ones.
On the other hand, the goal of EMDR can also be to help patients reorient their memories and thoughts into positive ones. One difference is that the clinician will often use an image or a vibrating handheld device while they ask the patient to recall a memory or an unpleasant experience. The patient will look at the image or hold the device for about 30 seconds while they recall the experience. Once the 30 seconds are up, the clinician will ask the patient to describe how they felt during the exercise. This will be repeated multiple times until a patient is desensitized from any overwhelming sensations associated with the memory of the traumatic event.
It is important to note that trauma should only be treated by licensed professionals. Therapeutic techniques such as CBT and EMDR can bring up unpleasant feelings and memories that may be uncomfortable to deal with. It is best if these emotions and memories are handled by a professional to ensure the safety and well-being of the patient.
Here at Sage Recovery, we are dedicated to helping patients heal as healthily as possible. For this reason, every single staff member is extensively trained to provide trauma-informed care. This ensures that all patients are treated with dignity and respect as they heal.
Trauma-informed care recognizes the intricacies and layers of trauma and gives space to treat the patient comprehensively, not to just “fix” their undesirable behaviors. SAMHSA explains, “Trauma-informed care acknowledges the need to understand a patient’s life experiences to deliver effective care and has the potential to improve patient engagement, treatment adherence, health outcomes, and provider and staff wellness.”
Healing from the hard things you’ve been through might feel intimidating. At Sage Recovery, we’re here to make sure you don’t have to heal alone. Whether you’re struggling with substance use, unresolved trauma, anxiety, depression, or mental health, we can help. We believe there are multiple pathways to healing, so that’s why our master’s-level clinicians are extensively trained in various treatment techniques. Ranging from evidence-based like CBT and EMDR to innovative ones like equine therapy or acupuncture detoxification, our customized treatment plans ensure that you find the healing path that works best for you. When you’re ready to begin your healing journey, reach out to us at (512) 306-1394. We’re ready to walk alongside you.