Just like genetics, there are other things that are passed down from parents to their children. One of these things include trauma. It is particularly known as intergenerational trauma. According to Melanie English, PHD, “it can be silent, undefined, taught and implied throughout someone’s life from a young age onwards.”

Who is most vulnerable to it?

Anyone and everyone is vulnerable to intergenerational trauma, however, individuals who are more vulnerable are those with a history of being exploited, being repeatedly abused, experiencing racism, war and violence. This is because such experiences become too stressful that they cause genetic changes in individuals. Dr. DeSilva calls this traumatic reactivity experienced over generations.


Having known this much, let us now look at the symptoms that one represents with when experiencing traumatic reactions. They include, mistrust, high anxiety levels, depression, panic attacks, nightmares, insomnia, self-esteem and self-confidence issues, sense of doom and a shortened future among others.

According to Dr. DeSilva it can also be seen to cause immunity problems, and dimentia. He explains that the genetic changes occur because when one is in a high trauma reactivity state, the Microglia, which is the brain’s immune system, eats away the nerve endings of the brain instead of enhancing its growth and riding it of damage. This changes are then passed on from one generation to another hence family members start experiencing symptoms of depression, anxiety and dimentia.

It is important to note that intergenerational trauma can not be diagnosed but it is a well accepted phenomenon.

How is it manifested?

Other than through stress, anxiety, depression and the other symptoms listed above, it can also mask itself through beliefs and behaviours that are taught within families. This kind of socialization affects personalities, relationships, parenting and communication experiences.

For instance a history of domestic violence in homes or neglect of families by fathers, or use of alcohol by members of the family experienced from one generation to the other or even financial instability.

These horrid instances accepted as normal despite the discomfort they cause. They are accepted as the family members become desensitised, they begin to feel hopeless and powerless because of the recurrence which enable the trauma to continue.

Is there treatment?

Only if a holistic and intense intervention is put in place. It can be through individual therapy and family therapy.

Additionally, it is important to know that you are not alone or helpless. Keeping in mind that there are factors outside your control that contributed to the traumatic experience.  Incase you feel you need support we here at Psyche-interventions offer services geared towards enabling you to heal. Feel free to contact us via 0708146415 or email

Before then below are some self-help tips to help you embark on your healing journey.

-Identify the kind of trauma you experienced.

-Journal or talk to someone about how the experiences made you feel.

-Start a forgiveness journey to forgive the person who made you experience the trauma if there is one. We need to understand that grief is also trauma if one doesn’t heal from the loss.

-Make peace with yourself that it wasn’t your fault that they didn’t treat you that way cause you are not good enough.

-Start forming healthy boundaries with them and other people.

-Start engaging in self care activities so as to improve your self esteem.

-Continue being mindful of your behaviour and emotions so that you can identify the cause and modify.

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