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Intergenerational PTSD Transmission

July 13, 2011

Am I saying that PTSD can be caught?   I will say this, it is rare but yes it can be passed on to another generation.  It happens when a child is so upset by the parents PTSD symptoms that he/she takes on many of the same symptoms.  It is called intergenerational transmission of trauma.

Sometimes, a caring parent divulge too much information to the child in the hopes of explaining PTSD.  The images shared between the PTSD victim and the child creates their own terrifying images in their mind which could lead to the child’s own PTSD.

In an attempt to share or re-bond with the parent the child may start sharing the parent’s PTSD symptoms/ too.

If a family subscribes to the “Children should be seen and not heard” parenting philosophy, they can easily silence the child and thus the child has no outlet for their thoughts and feelings and so the child’s anxiety just grows worse.  It is not unusual for a child to manufacture their own ideas about what happened to the parent in such a case. The they own their phantom explanation, which may be much worse than the actual PTSD event.

No matter how rare it may be, there are effects that children will feel.  This is one more reason why you, the PTSD’s support group must have the courage to start to seek help for your loved ones.  Military PTSD Forum is a free service.  There are no charges to post.  It may be just a small first step but, as they say, the longest journey begins by taking the first step.