Family Trauma and Historical Trauma

Refresh Recovery provides a systematic and integrative approach to trauma within substance abuse and mental illness treatment. We believe that there are underlying roots of our behavior and that with evidence-based practices, tools can empower individuals to rise above their past. Wondering if you have had trauma that is interrupting the quality of life and considering getting help? Understanding trauma is important to begin the journey of recovery.

You and your child might have experienced a traumatic event together: for example, a serious car accident, a flood, a domestic explosion, a shooting, or the suicide of friend. The trauma could also be something that happened only to you, or only to your daughter/son.

Even if you didn’t experience the traumatic event with your relative, you might still have strong feelings and reactions afterwards.

For example, you might feel guilty that you couldn’t stop the tragedy or that you were absent during the event. You might also feel anxious, overwhelmed or upset. These are natural reactions, because you feel responsible for keeping your next of kin safe.

Coping After Trauma

Failure to Cope with Trauma

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Coping After Trauma

So, your life has been turned upside down after a traumatic family event. There are new demands on your time, like insurance claims or medical appointments, in addition to the demands of daily life. Many of your usual routines more difficult to manage or altered altogether.

It is time to pour some energy on trying to cope in a calm and positive way by looking after yourself, managing family life and seeking support. When you cope well, your loved one is more likely to feel at ease too.

  • Try to limit gambling, alcohol and other substance use disorders such as alcohol or drugs. It is common to turn to these distractors in order to avoid somber memories. But gambling and drugs can create problems with finances, relationships and health that make recovering after a traumatic event even harder.
  • Reminders of the traumatic event often people. If you notice that you are getting anxious, remind yourself, ‘We’re upset because I’m being reminded of the event, but it’s different now. We are safe now; the danger is gone. If you have flashbacks and constant nightmares, you may be experiencing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (P.T.S.D.) though.
  • Try to exercise, do things you enjoy, talk about your feelings and ask for help from family, friends or your GP.
  • Signs that you need help after a traumatic event include headaches, depression, insomnia, or feelings of anger, guilt or shame.

If self soothing or coping mechanisms for trauma aren’t enough, become overwhelming or are affecting life considerably, Refresh Recovery mental health San Diego wants to provide a suited program that encompasses your needs for trauma.

Failure to Cope With Trauma

Over time most people cope after a traumatic event, but a few people might have trouble coping.

Some of the signs that you need help after a trauma are:

  • feeling constantly anxious, angry, overwhelmed, upset, guilty and ashamed or blaming yourself for over a couple of months after the traumatic event.
  • experiencing changes to your health including headaches, weight loss/gain insomnia.
  • finding it hard to get the event out of your mind.
  • feeling ‘cut off’ from your social circle.
  • failure to care for your child or offer the emotional support your loved one needs.

Approach Refresh Recovery mental health treatment San Deigo if you have any of these signs, or if you feel unable to overcome the traumatic event alone. Recovery after a traumatic event is not easy. The more you wait, the longer it will take you to recover. Read more on our blog about healthy lifestyles in recovery from addiction and mental health or for information on our San Diego County community resources for mental health.

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Historical Trauma

Generational or Historical Trauma

Historical trauma is multigenerational trauma experienced by a specific ethnic, cultural or racial group.

 It is related to major events that oppressed a particular group of people because of their status as oppressed, such as the Holocaust, forced migration, slavery and the violent colonization of Native Americans.

Attending Historical Trauma

While many in such a group will experience no effects of the historical trauma, others may experience poor overall physical and behavioral health, including, depression, self-destructive behavior, poor self-esteem, marked propensity for violent or aggressive behavior, addictions, and high rates cardiovascular disease and suicide. 

Acute problems of domestic violence or alcohol misuse that are not directly linked to historical trauma may be exacerbated by living in a community with unaddressed grief and behavioral health needs. Parents’ experience of trauma may disrupt typical parenting skills and contribute to behavior problems in children. Compounding this familial or intergenerational trauma, historical trauma often involves the additional challenge of a tarnished cultural identity.

Clinical social workers first described historical trauma among offspring of the Holocaust survivors and the children of Japanese Americans interned during World War II. 

The children and grandchildren of survivors tend to experience attachment issues and isolation by their parents. 

Communities of Native Americans, who experienced repeated massacres and the forced removal of children to federal and mission boarding and day schools have been attended.

Historical trauma can be described as the cumulative emotional and psychological wounding over the lifespan and across generations, emanating from massive group trauma experience. African Americans, for instance, experienced generations of segregation, institutionalized racism and slavery that has contributed to their psychological, spiritual and physical trauma.

For members of any of these communities, daily reminders of racial discrimination often exacerbate individual responses to trauma. An understudied group who has experienced historical trauma is the disability community. 

People with disabilities have been subjected to biases and misrepresentations about their capabilities and lived experiences in the recent past.

Attempts to eradicate people with disabilities have included eugenics campaigns, forced psychiatric treatment, the institutionalization of people with intellectual disabilities and compulsory sterilization.

Historical Trauma Treatment

By being mindful of unresolved grief and distrust of majority groups or government programs, therapists can deliver programs to reduce family stress, child neglect, toxic substances use, mental health problems, and domestic violence. 

The staff at Refresh Recovery mental health treatment San Diego can better understand present day reactions to events in the context of individual trauma narratives. 

To build trust, our clinicians will be respectful, cognizant of different reactions to traumatic events within communities, and focus on community strengths and resilience. With the understanding that all communities are unique with distinct cultural norms and belief systems, our personnel are in a good position to support to members of the affected community.

Relevant  and Alternative Approaches

Research is still emerging on the effectiveness of treatment methods for patients experiencing historical trauma. Treatment approaches are grounded in traditional healing methods and ceremonial practices of communities. 

Psychoeducational group interventions delivered at geographic locations that are sacred to members of tribal communities that involve ceremonies reinforcing cultural identity have taken place. Although even top researchers in this field acknowledge the literature about historical trauma is controversial, there is an important emphasis on the healing process, and overcoming the barriers to resolving grief.

Key Facts

  • Historical trauma is intergenerational trauma experienced by a specific cultural group that has a history of being systematically oppressed.
  • Current lifespan trauma, superimposed upon a traumatic ancestral past creates additional adversity.
  • Historical trauma is cumulative across generations. Descendants who have not directly experienced a traumatic event can exhibit the signs and symptoms of trauma, such as depression, fixation on trauma, low self-esteem, anger, and self-destructive behavior.
  • Sometimes, the belief that the systems do not support them makes people experience triggers that are re-traumatizing.
  • Clinicians working with members of underserved cultural groups can help by gaining a fuller understanding of clients’ historical and community context. Providers can also seek and build alliances with local, respected individuals such community or religious leaders.

Trauma Treatment San Diego at Refresh Recovery

At Refresh Recovery, our team of mental health professionals are trained to provide treatment in a humane and empathetic setting making mental health attention one of comfort and non judgement. Whether isolated or in co-ocurring with substance use disorders, your tailored mental health or dual diagnosis rehabilitation program will be developed with your unique needs in mind.

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