From your grandparents to your grandchildren; stress reaction and trauma effect DNA and genetic markers

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We all cope with stress differently. For some it is easier than others. The way we deal with stressful triggers and even those with anxiety may be a genetic reflection of previous generations making it a partially inherited trait. Similarly, the way we cope and handle our emotional triggers can directly affect our future offspring as well as their offspring alike. This is commonly referred to as generational stress.

In 2013, scientists did a study with mice consisting of cherry blossom scent. Male mice in the test group were zapped in the foot every time the scent of cherry blossom was blown into their cages. They were conditioned to fear the scent. When their offspring were born, they were removed from the parents and showed a high sensitivity to the smell of cherry blossom even though they were not conditioned like their parents. The next generation also showed a mild sensitivity and anxiety to the scent (Robb-Dover, 2018). It would appear through additional studies of other kinds; the genetic modification comes primarily from the males that have been conditioned and has only been proven to be through two consecutive generations. Other studies have been done regarding Holocaust survivors and POW’s.

The reason for this has to do with changes to our DNA but not our actual genetic code. The epigenetic changes to our genetic traits are similar to the process of inheriting a genetic marker for certain illnesses or physical traits (Henriques, 2019). When we suffer through traumas and extremely stressful situations, we can deal with the consequences such as anxiety, depression, fear, and other emotions that are hard to cope with. Anger issues and other unhealthy habits can form due to our experiences.

There are two important reasons to consider these DNA modifications that can be passed from one generation to another. The first is that when we find ourselves feeling overwhelmed, stressed, etc., some may react overly aggressive, some may fall into a deep depression, and some may have an inner strength that they can’t understand the source of. In other cases, we may find ourselves feeling overly anxious, angry, and depressed for no valid reason at all. It is important to keep in mind that the way you handle these situations may not fully be on you. You may react in a specific way to a situation and not even really know why. Then later you hear someone say you parent used to do the same thing. Certain reactions and triggers may not even be fully your own.

The second point to keep in mind is that one day, many will have children of their own, then grandchildren. When we are finding ways to cope with our traumas and deal with our stresses, we should consider the consequences to our future generations. For example, an individual who suffers a severe trauma and refuses to seek counseling and positive treatment, may turn to drugs or unhealthy habits to cope with the situation. When not working through the emotions and fears, they stay with you. These triggers can easily be passed along.

This is in no way at all a justification for specific behaviors and does not explain the majority of mental illnesses or other problems. It does, however, help explain some individual’s go-to responses to situations. If you feel you are in need of help or positive encouragement, reach out to a local agency and get the help you need.

What are your thoughts on this? Let me know in the comments or e-mail me at Please remember to keep all comments and thoughts kind. Follow for more articles. I will be posting an article on second-hand trauma in the near future.

Can the legacy of trauma be passed down the generations? - BBC Future

Can Responses to Stress Be Passed Down Genetically? (
Genetic modificationsPhoto bySangharsh LohakareonUnsplash

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Life Coach with degrees in multiple areas bringing real life issues, big and small, to the headlines and opening the lines of communication with comments from those with varying opinions.

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