The Effects of Trauma on People and Their Families


If you have ever owned dominoes then you know what happens when you stack them in a line and push one down, which is called the “Domino Effect”. Even though you would have only pushed down one domino, this does not mean that only one domino is affected. Instead of one domino being affected, all dominoes end up being affected, each of them being pushed down by the one previous in line, which all stems from the initial movement of the first domino. In a way, the way that trauma effects someone as well as their descendants can be compared to this by how the effects of trauma can be spread to someone just by its initial effect on someone connected to them, like a relative. This can further be shown in sources like “The War Photo No One Wanted Published”, “Genetics of Emotions” and the Ted Talk “Understanding PTSD’s Effects on Brain, Body and Emotions”. In “The War Photo No One Wanted Published” by Torie Rose Deghett, the media tries to refrain from showing a graphic photo from the Gulf War which results in a non-objective presentation of what is happening in the war from the media. On the other hand, in “Understanding PTSD’s Effects on Brain, Body and Emotions”, Janet Seahorn goes in depth on the effects of trauma and PTSD on her husband and how it affects her families’ everyday life. Furthermore, “Genetics of Emotions” breaks down how genetics can affect emotions and how genetics can be affected by external influences such as stress. Taking all these sources into consideration, I have come to the assumption that trauma really does affect a person’s mental state as well as those around them such as their family and descendants.

One way in which trauma may impact someone is by making them numb to certain events that would otherwise disturb certain people. When one is in a situation where there is something very traumatic happening or in an environment which contains very disturbingly graphic scenes, then their emotions seem to be somewhat subdued to cop with their current situation. This is shown in “The War Photo No One Wanted Published” when Jarecke explains what was going through his head when he took the picture of the burned body. He stated that he "“wasn’t thinking at all about what was there; if I had thought about how horrific the guy looked, I wouldn’t have been able to make the picture.”  Jarecke could have reacted in many ways when he saw the bodies and burned military convoys, such as frantically trying to get out of the area and into a safe one, but instead he reacted with little emotion and did what he was there to do as if the body were not even there. Even with him stating that he was not thinking about the body shows how numb he was to the situation as anyone who thought about the body when they saw it would instantly react with fear as a survival instinct.  Furthermore, Jarecke was probably also numb due to the environment he was in, as a person who approached a dead body in a regular environment would most likely react with fear or feel some type of emotional distress, which displays how traumatic the war environment was as well.

Another way in which trauma can affect a person and, in this case, also their descendants is by altering one’s genetics. In “Genetics of Emotions” it is shown that constant stress exposure can alter your DNA. It is stated that “Greater stress correlates with reduced methylation at the CpG dinucleotide created by the Val158 allele, possibly altering the expression of COMT and traits associated with it.” Trauma can cause great levels of stress in a person which may result in this. Additionally, COMT and Val158 are genes that affect emotions. This means that if these genes are altered then one’s emotions will be altered as well as the emotions of the people that descend from this person as genes are inherited from your ancestors. An example of this is that the emotions that you may have could have came from the trauma of your grandparents. Also, the effects of trauma would never be lost as they would just continue to be passed down each generation through these genes.

Lastly, trauma can impact a family in the way that they care for a family member who deals with PTSD. In “Understanding PTSD’s Effects on Brain, Body and Emotions”, Janet Seahorn goes in detail of how PTSD affects her husband and their family life. One instance is where she describes him “pacing” when waiting for his children to get ready in the morning when they were late. She states how he was like that because war conditioned him to think that the later he is to a battle, the more people die. Also, she tells a story of how a ride at a theme park made his skin turn “white and ash in color” and vomit. According to her, this was due to him falling out of a helicopter during the Vietnam War and being surrounded by dead bodies after. This shows how for someone like Janet’s husband to have his PTSD symptoms decreased, their family must alter the way they live. They should keep their relatives who suffer from PTSD away from things like roller coasters, which can trigger their PTSD, and stay on time if lateness can trigger their loved one’s anxiety.

On the other hand, trauma might not actually make one numb. This is because people who experience PTSD from traumatic events always seem to be very reactive to certain events, such as Janet’s husband. Furthermore, it could be argued that Jarecke did not experience trauma from being in a warzone and seeing dead bodies. The reason why Jarecke did not react when he saw bodies could have been that his ability to cope with stressful situations could have just been high. Many people are not that expressive and do not show that much emotions in traumatic situations. The reason why I do not agree with this argument though is that Jarecke it does not seem as though Jarecke was in a traumatic event before. For Jarecke to react like someone with PTSD when he saw the burned bodies, the wiring in his brain would have had to been altered due to a previous traumatic experience, which it was not. Furthermore, a regular person that could cope with stressful situations who saw the dead bodies or was in that same environment and situation as Jarecke when he saw the bodies would of at least had some type of emotional response. The way in which Jared says how he was not even thinking about what was in his environment when he took the pictures of the dead bodies makes me feel like that was a traumatic moment for Jarecke, which caused his brain to, in a way, block itself from really thinking about the environment it was in and what it was witnessing.

In conclusion, there are many ways in which trauma can impact someone both mentally and physically as well as their family and, surprisingly, descendants. One way is by making one numb to their environment. “The War Photo That No One Wanted Published” clearly shows this by how Jarecke was unfazed by dead bodies and his environment. Furthermore, trauma can affect a person and their descendants by altering their genes that control their emotions. This is shown in “Genetics of Emotions” when it is stated that longtime stress exposure can alter the genes COMT and Val158 which are genes that are important to human emotion. Lastly, trauma can impact one’s family by changing the way their family cares for them which is shown in Understanding PTSD’s Effects on Brain, Body and Emotions” by how Janet’s families’ lifestyle was taking a toll on her husband’s mental health. Additionally, the point of Jarecke having trauma can be argued, though I have strong reason to still support it. All in all, trauma is not a joke and its impact is very evident in the way it can spread to others from the initial person, similar to the way dominoes fall in a chain reaction.

 

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