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Stress and Illness-Trauma

Stress and Illness-Trauma

Various ways experiencing trauma can affect a person’s life, including psychologically, intellectually, physically, and emotionally. This paper will discuss how traumatic experiences influence a person’s life. It will also examine the relationship between epigenetics and stress, as well as the historical event of World War II and the alterations that it brought along. The paper shall further explain why it might help to know how children are affected by trauma that their parents experienced and how current events like COVID-19 and the U.S.-China Trade War can affect future generations.

How Experiencing Trauma Affects a Person’s Life

The psychological pain caused by trauma can threaten to damage or damage a person’s sense of self or psychic integrity. An example is an anticipated sexual assault where the victim does not expect to encounter pain or injury. A girl, for example, may be sexually assaulted by a man on a date even when she is sure she is not in danger of that assault. This may traumatize her to the extent of jeopardizing her sense of self as a result of the shame of being raped, anguish because she was unable to protect herself, and guilt because she takes responsibility for what happened to her (Carlson & Dalenberg, 2000). In such a scenario, her physical body is also altered because of the experience and the aftermath, which may be a conception of a child infection or loss of dignity, which may cause emotional and psychological distress to the individual.

Moreover, researchers have found that continual exposure to traumatic events can make the brain of a child prisoner to its ‘freeze, flight or fight’ response (Perry, 2000). In the process, it gets difficult for such a child to establish meaningful relationships, and it may even be hard for them to reach out for assistance.

Definition of Epigenetics and How Stress Plays a Role in It

According to Gudsnuk Champagne (2012), epigenetics refers to molecular changes that modify gene expression without changing the underlying sequence of DNA. Research shows that long-term impacts of later life and early life experiences affect brain gene expression in a specific region (Gudsnuk & Champagne, 2012). For instance, exposure to stress in early infancy or the process of fetal development is linked with gene upregulation involved in the response of hypothalamic pituitary adrenal (HPA) to stress as well as a gene downregulation that exerts an inhibiting impact on these pathways (Gudsnuk & Champagne, 2012). This research has shown that various experiences, such as social interaction quality and exposure to stress, can induce the effects of epigenetics.

History Event that Caused Stress-related Changes

After World War II, Britain, just like many other nation-states, struggled to reconcile itself with the shocking effects of the war and bounce back economically, socially, mentally, and emotionally, according to Jackson (2015). Women were fickle when it came to ‘social duty’ as tradition dictated, linked to their responsibility as wives and mothers, and the opportunities for self-fulfillment, choice, and freedom created by more liberal strategies for women’s careers and education. They were also trying to cope with the memories of the war as young men struggled to adapt to the changing patterns of home and work life. Due to this, the definition of stress evolved from being referred to when explaining some of the onset illnesses like heart disease, diabetes, peptic ulceration, and arthritis to entail signs and symptoms like worry, sleeplessness, indigestion, anxiety, and fatigue (Jackson, 2015). In Britain, the war inflicted both foreseen and unforeseen traumas on communities, families, and individuals, emanating from stressors like repatriation, bereavement, illness, tiredness, loneliness, and separation. As a result, people coped with these effects differently, as some smoked and took alcohol while others embraced therapeutic approaches. According to Jackson (2015), women presented widely with psychiatric illnesses like depression and anxiety, while men did not seek help and merely complained of somatic symptoms like indigestion.

Why It Might Help to Know How Children Will Be Affected by Trauma Their Parents Experienced

Traumatized children need to feel loved and safe, and parents ought to provide these to them. However, when the parents do not understand the impacts of trauma and how it may influence their children, they are likely to misinterpret their children’s behavior and eventually resent them or get frustrated by them (Children’s Bureau, 2014). They may impose ineffective and/or harmful measures to address troubling behaviors in their children.

Events That Could Cause Traumatic Effects in Future Generations

The U.S. – China Trade War from 2016, coupled with the COVID-19 pandemic, is markedly threatening the future generation. The accusations that the two powerful trade countries have posed on each other regarding unfair trade practices have already had spill-over effects on dependent countries in Europe, Asia, and Africa, as well as elsewhere in the world. COVID-19, which the Trump administration referred to as the Chinese virus (Boylan et al., 2021), has wreaked havoc in all nation-states worldwide, jeopardizing health, economies, politics, businesses, social life, and, in this case, trade between and among nation-states. These events will likely influence future generations as people have lost lives, jobs, social lives, and trade partners.


In conclusion, trauma affects an individual’s life in terms of economics, social, intellectual, behavior, and psychology, as shown in the post-war period, when people struggled to reconcile themselves with the effects of WWII and how to adapt and adjust accordingly. Going forward, right from childhood, parents need to understand the effects of trauma in order to address their children’s traumatic experiences effectively. It is also noted that the current COVID-19 situation is likely to cause similar effects in the future.


Boylan, B. M., McBeath, J., & Wang, B. (2021). US–China relations: Nationalism, the trade war, and COVID-19. Fudan Journal of the Humanities and Social Sciences, 14(1), 23-40.

Carlson, E. B., & Dalenberg, C. J. (2000). A conceptual framework for the impact of traumatic experiences. Trauma, violence, & abuse, 1(1), 4-28.

Children’s Bureau (2014). Factsheet for Families. Retrieved 16/6/2021 from

Gudsnuk, K., & Champagne, F. A. (2012). Epigenetic influence of stress and the social environment. ILAR journal, 53(3-4), 279-288.

Jackson, M. (2015). Stress in post-war Britain: an introduction. Taylor & Francis.

Perry, B.D. (2000). Traumatized children: How childhood trauma influences brain development. Journal of the California Alliance for the Mentally Ill, 11(1), 48–51


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Assignment Overview

Recall the video from your Module 1 Case Assignment on how stress affects the brain. Stress not only affects the structure and function of the brain, but its genetic makeup as well. In this module you were introduced to the various effects stress has on each body system, including the reproductive system. New research suggests that experiencing intense psychological trauma may have a genetic impact on a person’s future children. In the following video, Dr. Rachel Yehuda studied the genetic effects in a population of Holocaust survivors and found variations from the norm in both generations for the gene associated with depression and anxiety disorders. The findings imply that children of individuals who experience profound stress in life may be more likely to develop stress or anxiety disorders themselves.

Stress and Illness-Trauma

Stress and Illness-Trauma

Can Trauma Be Passed to the Next Generation Through DNA? PBS Learning Media. Accessed at

Case Assignment

Answer the following questions in essay format. For additional details, see the Case Assignment directions below.

  • How does experiencing trauma affect a person’s life?
  • Describe the term epigenetics. How does stress play a role in epigenetics?
  • Describe an event in history that could have caused stress-related changes to the next generation (some examples include the Holocaust, 9-11 terrorist attack, the Dutch famine of 1944). Include the disorders these children experienced (such as anxiety, depression, mental disorders, etc).
  • Why might it be helpful to know how children will be affected by trauma their parents experienced?
  • What kinds of events going on in the world right now could be producing similar effects in future generations?

Assignment Expectations

Organize this essay assignment using subtitles that summarize the topic from each question above. For example, to answer Question 1, use a descriptive subtitle like the following: Effects of Trauma.

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