How Can Parents Help
If your child has been through trauma, here are things you can do:
- Help your child feel safe. They may need extra time, comfort, and care from you for a while.
- Help your child relax. Invite them to take a few slow breaths with you. Breathe in while you count to 3. Breathe out while you count to 5.
- Do things together that you enjoy. Trauma can make it harder to feel the positive emotions that naturally help kids recharge. Play, laugh, enjoy nature, make music or art, cook. These activities can reduce stress and build your childs resilience.
- Reassure your child. Let them know they will get through this. And that you are there to help.
- Let your childs doctor know what your child has been through. Get a referral to a mental health professional .
- Tell your childs teacher that your child went through a trauma. Kids with PTSD may have more trouble focusing on schoolwork. Ask for your child to have extra help or more time to do schoolwork if they need it for a while.
What Are We Passing On Our Children
The single most dangerous idea I learned in school is that the genes you get from your parents are passed on to your children, and nothing you do in your life changes them. Thankfully, however, the findings of the new scientific field of epigenetics is starting to change this dangerous attitude. We do indeed pass on the exact same chromosomes from parent to child, however, the quality they are in when we receive them can be improved or diminished according to what happens to us and the choices we make during our lifetime.
Related: 3 Ways To Handle Childhood Trauma
The reason why its dangerous for us to believe otherwise is that it has lead to entire generations of people believing that their choices concerning their own body and the environment affecting it have no detrimental effect on the genes of future generations. In short, it has the potential to see us devolve, simply out of ignorance.
Watch out the video to better understand the problem of intergenerational trauma
Fortunately, as awareness of epigenetics spreads, its helping people understand that how we live our lives can change the quality of our own genes for the better and those we pass on to our offspring.
Prenatal Maternal Contributions To Offspring Via Fetoplacental Interactions
An emerging body of literature has raised the possibility that maternal effects of trauma exposure might contribute to offspring effects through fetoplacental interactions131, 132, 133, 134, 135. This possibility is consistent with clinical, neuroendocrine and epigenetic findings, in which maternal and paternal PTSD predicted different psychiatric and biological outcomes in offspring28, 126.
The intrauterine environment presents a developmentally potent context95, mechanistically distinct from postnatal parenting or family environment, through which maternal trauma or stressful experiences may influence fetal epigenetic programming of the HPA axis136. By 22 weeks of gestation, the fetal HPA axis is developed and functioning, although it continues to be sensitive to environmental influence137, 138. The placenta nourishes and protects the fetus, buffering the effects of maternal glucocorticoids through the expression of placental 11Bhydroxysteroid dehydrogenase type 2 , an enzyme that converts cortisol to inactive cortisone139.
In animal models, prenatal stress has been shown to lower expression of 11HSD2 mRNA and 11BHSD2 activity, both of which are associated with increased 11HSD2 methylation in the placenta140. Such effects of prenatal stress would have profound consequences on fetal exposure to glucocorticoids and the development of glucocorticoid sensitive systems, such as the HPA axis.
Read Also: Diabetes Symptoms Anxiety
Preconception Paternal Effects And Offspring Phenotype: Proof Of Concept For The Role Of Sperm
A rapidly growing literature has focused on paternal transmission through sperm3, 173. Unlike oocytes, which are formed in females prior to birth, spermatogenesis in males is initiated in the testes at puberty and continues throughout the lifespan174. Studying transmission through sperm eliminates confounds created by influences of fetoplacental environment, delivery factors, and maternal care as described above. Furthermore, paternal exposure to preconception stress at any stage of development might impact gametes but, as with females, there may be critical periods of vulnerability to insult.
Among the epigenetic mechanisms that have been implicated in paternal transmission of stress effects via sperm are DNA methylation, oxidative damage to sperm DNA, histone modifications, and changes in small noncoding RNA175, 176, 177, 178, 179, including microRNA180, 181. Changes in any of these properties in sperm could affect gene expression and other biological processes in the developing embryo and fetus, setting the stage for phenotypic change in offspring182. It is important to note that in cases where such processes then result in modifications of DNA methylation, the process of transmission would remain indirect, despite germ cell mediation. It is the eventrelated change in germ cell biology that produces the methylation mark, not the original trauma.
Can Psychological Trauma Be Passed Down To Children
28 June 2019
Dr Joanne Ryan, Head of the Biological Neuropsychiatry and Dementia Unit, is in the midst of an exciting project exploring epigenetic changes that affect mental health, and how these may be passed down through generations. The research builds on previous studies describing behavioural and clinical problems in the children of Holocaust survivors which results from altered gene function.
Genes are the chemical instruction manual for all the proteins our bodies make. Chemical changes that directly alter a genes coding are often called mutations epigenetic changes are chemical changes that dont directly alter the genetic template, but rather influence the way the corresponding protein is made. This may include completely blocking any manufacturing of the protein, reducing or increasing the rate at which the protein is made, or changing the conditions under which a protein is created.
Joanne has conducted previous research exploring the foetal epigenome during pregnancy, and whether maternal hormone differences arising from maternal stress and depression can influence a childs propensity to develop mental health problems later in life.
Also Check: Fear Of Really Long Words
Can Trauma Be Passed On Through Our Dna
PTSD is a whole-body tragedy, an integral human event of enormous proportions with massive repercussions. Susan Pease Banitt
Intergenerational Trauma is the idea that serious trauma can affect the children and grandchildren of those who had the first-hand experience, due to living with a person suffering from PTSD and the challenges that can bring. Whats new is thanks to the emerging field of epigenetics science is discovering that trauma is being passed down to future generations through more than simply learned behaviors.
One widely reported example is of holocaust survivors passing the effects of trauma to children and grandchildren. It seems that trauma or its effects are being passed down through our genes, and it has enormous consequences for us as a species.
Science is showing that intergenerational trauma is a reality
The History Of Genetic Trauma Research
Researchers first discovered the generational impact of trauma on the children of people who lived through the Dutch famine during World War II.
Several studies conducted in the 1970s found that the children of pregnant women during this famine were more prone to higher-than-average body mass and diabetes, thus forming the basis for future research on intergenerational, or transgenerational, trauma.
When researchers from Columbia University studied the death records of children of the Dutch famine for a 2013 study, they found that prenatal famine was linked to lower mortality.
Scientists also found that trauma can have a generational impact when they studied the children of Holocaust survivors, as one 2015 study found.
The study mentioned an association between prenatal trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder and anxiety in children.
A suggests a link between intergenerational trauma and depression, too. They found evidence that trauma can be passed between generations epigenetically, which means that trauma experienced by an ancestor might affect the way your genes are expressed.
Bales extensive work shows that parental stress can impact the following factors in children:
- risk for obesity
- risk for diabetes
- brain development
She says effects can vary based on the sex of the baby. Prenatal stress seems to affect boys more, and postnatal affects girls more. This may have to do with the protective effects of the female placenta during gestation.
Don’t Miss: Three Phases Of Schizophrenia
Is Trauma Handed Down Through Generations
Psychologists increasingly think PTSD can be passed down what does that mean for regions hit by conflict?
Saleem says he can still see the faces of the young men he shot. More than a decade after sniper duty in the Lebanon-Israel war of 2006, he still has nightmares.
In this region we have a saying that a young man is like a rose He breaks off for a moment and then does not finish the sentence.
Saleems first marriage broke down after the end of the war. His children stayed with him. He admits he was probably hard to live with. I never talked about the war. I never talked about it at all. I locked everything away.
After the war he drove refuse lorries for a while. Now he is a taxi driver. He has remarried but he doesnt speak to his new wife about the war. I dont like to leave the children, he says. I dont like to be outside the house at night. For years and years I didnt want to talk about it at all, but now I look online at night to try to understand.
About this series
Mental illness is universal, affecting hundreds of millions of people around the world. No country is spared, and when it comes to treatments, every country is a developing country.
Causes are legion: stress, shock, grief, trauma . Naturally, conflict of any kind will generate many of these causative factors and increase the risk of mental illness in the population.
Any Kind Of Trauma Requires Professional Help
It can be a powerful step to stop seeing this as a private family problem. Trauma and PTSD are disorders. That means, for starters, you should seek out a qualified trauma therapist. Give yourself and thus, your family a chance to break the cycle. Explore pervasive underlying habits and patterns. Learn skills that will put an end to the cycle of intergenerational trauma. Dare to visualize a new way of interacting and resolving conflict.
Strive to heal the lingering wounds and scars.
Finally, neither you nor your family is doomed to remain stuck in your traumas. You can move past the fear of stigma and the lack of trust. Your journey to recovery can commence safely and confidentially. I would appreciate the opportunity to facilitate this process with you. Please read more about trauma therapy and lets connect to make change happen.
Don’t Miss: Can Anxiety Cause Burning Skin
When A Child’s Parent Has Ptsd
Available en Español
As a parent with PTSD, you may find that your children respond to you differently. They may not understand the changes and symptoms they see. Learn about common ways children respond to a parent’s PTSD and read tips about how you can help them cope better.
Reading time: minutes
I didn’t really have a chance to experience a childhood.
Studies On Transgenerational Effect Of Trauma And Ptsd
Yehuda and Daskalakis et al. examined transgenerational methylation changes of Holocaust survivors on FKBP5, a moderator of glucocorticoid activity. The researchers examined 32 Holocaust survivors and their 22 offspring, as well as 8 control subjects and their 9 offspring. Blood samples were obtained for quantification of FKBP5 methylation and cortisol levels. There were significantly higher FKBP5 intron 7 methylation levels in Holocaust survivors, but significantly lower FKBP5 intron 7 methylation levels in their offspring. The authors suggested that this opposite effect seen on FKBP5 intron 7 methylation levels might be attributable to biological accommodation in the offspring. More research is needed to replicate these findings in a larger cohort. Limitations of the study include its limited sample size, as well as, the presence of other factors which are impossible to control for in the population, such as the extreme starvation conditions of the Holocaust survivors, which could have also contributed to the effect seen. Despite the limitations of this study, it is quite a unique and informative study. If further replicated in a larger study, these findings could change the way our field conceptualizes trauma and PTSD.
Don’t Miss: Mdd Vs Bpd
How Extreme Situations Have Impacted Offspring
Mason shared that the field of epigenetics gained real traction about a decade ago, when scientists published seminal research on the Dutch Hunger Winter, an extended period of famine that took place towards the end of World War II when the Nazis blocked food supplies in October 1944, thrusting much of the Netherlands into famine. When the Dutch were liberated in May 1945, more than 20,000 had died of starvation. Pregnant women were particularly vulnerable and the famine impacted the unborn children for the rest of their lives.
Scientists found that those who had been in utero during the famine were a few pounds heavier than average. When the children reached middle age, they had higher LDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels. They also suffered higher rates of obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and schizophrenia. When scientists looked into why, they found that these children carried a specific chemical markan epigenetic signatureon one of their genes.
Dr. Rachel Yehuda, Director of the Traumatic Stress Studies Division at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City, conducted a 2015 study on the children of 40 Holocaust survivors. She found that they had epigenetic changes to a gene linked to their levels of cortisol, a hormone involved in the stress response. She also found a distinctive pattern of DNA methylation, another epigenetic marker. The study concluded that both parents and unborn children were affected on a genetic level.
It Is Not That Fear Is Being Passed Down The Generations It Is That Fear In One Generation Leads To Sensitivity In The Next
The second and third generation appeared to have not a fear of the scent itself, but a heightened sensitivity to it. The finding brings to light an often-missed subtlety of epigenetic inheritance that the next generation doesnt always show exactly the same trait that their parents developed. It is not that fear is being passed down the generations it is that fear of a scent in one generation leads to sensitivity to the same scent in the next.
So this is not apples for apples, says Brian Dias, author of the study and a researcher at Emory University and the Yerkes National Primate Research Center in the US. Even the term inheritance should be qualified here, he adds. The word inheritance suggests it has to be a faithful representation of a trait thats passed down.
The consequences of passing down the effects of trauma are huge, even if they are subtly altered between generations. It would change the way we view how our lives in the context of our parents experience, influencing our physiology and even our mental health.
The offspring of mice condititioned to fear the smell of flowers would also be sensitive to the same scent
And knowing that the consequences of our own actions and experiences now could affect the lives of our children even long before they might be conceived could put a very different spin on how we choose to live.
Also Check: Pre Schizophrenic Symptoms
How Is Ptsd Treated
PTSD doesnt usually go away on its own. Getting treatment and help can make all the difference. Mental health providers have the experience to work with patients with PTSD.
Treatment for PTSD can include therapy and/or medicines to help with anxiety, mood problems, and sleep issues.
Therapy for kids with PTSD is called trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy . This type of talk therapy uses talking and learning activities, guided by a mental health therapist.
For younger kids, trauma therapy includes talk, play, drawing, and story activities. A parent or caregiver is almost always there during the therapy. Their support and comfort play a big role in helping their child feel safe and do well.
TF-CBT can help any child who has been through a trauma, not just those who have PTSD. Getting therapy soon after a trauma helps kids cope well.
For teens, PTSD therapy often includes:
- cognitive processing therapy activities: to help with thoughts and feelings about the trauma
- prolonged exposure activities: to help teens lower anxiety and learn to safely face things they avoid after trauma
- eye movement desensitization and reprocessing therapy : combined cognitive therapy with directed eye movements to reduce the power and pain of the trauma. This helps the brain reprocess memory of the trauma. There are therapists who specialize in this type of trauma therapy.
Parental Anxiety Can Pass On To Children
the Psychiatry Advisor take:
Anxious and overprotective parents may unwittingly be harming their children as the anxiety may be passed down to them.
Thats the key finding of a new study from scientists at Kings College London, who looked at parents who were twins, both identical and fraternal. They compared data on anxiety symptoms from children and their parent, and compared this against data from the parents identical twin and their children in order to determine the effect of genetic versus environmental factors.
Parents who were identical twins had anxiety on similar levels to their own children rather than their nieces or nephews, an indication that family environment is an important factor in anxiety among parents and children, even accounting for genetics, the researchers reported in The American Journal of Psychiatry.
While a natural tendency when your child is anxious is to try to protect them, it can be more helpful to support them in taking small age-appropriate risks, study head author Thalia Eley, PhD, said, according to the Daily Mail. This will teach them that the world is generally a safe place and they can manage situations that initially seem stressful, developing their sense of mastery and in turn promoting resilience.
Eley added additional research is needed to determine if anxiety in children induced anxiety in parents, or whether the adolescents learning to view the world in a threatening way because of their parents behavior.
Also Check: Ashley Olsen Anorexic