What are Adverse Childhood Experiences or ACEs?

Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE’s) are traumatic experiences during childhood. These experiences include both isolated incidents as well as ongoing incidents. Most people have had at least one childhood experience that is considered to be traumatic. According to Psychology Today, the most exhaustive study was done by the original CDC-Kaiser Permanente Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study. 17,000 participants were studied over the course of several years to see how their childhood traumas affected their well-being later in life. The study revealed that those who have Adverse Childhood Experiences have a greater risk of substance abuse, addiction, and suicide. They are also at increased risk of heart disease, cancer, depression, stroke, diabetes, chronic pain, and liver or lung disease.

Some of the traumatic childhood events that were identified as adverse are:

· Exposure to domestic violence

· Abuse (sexual, physical, emotional)

· Neglect (emotional and physical needs)

· Parent with an untreated mental disorder or illness

· Parent with a substance abuse problem

· Parents who were separated or divorced

· Loss of parent (this could be through death, desertion, deportation, incarceration, or removal from the home by Child Protective Services

· Bullying

· Racism

· Witnessing violence

· Homelessness

· Being an immigrant

· Moving a lot (as in military families)

According to Roots Through Recovery, ACE play a big part in a child’s brain development. Because the adverse effects of ACE can be very ingrained into one’s brain over the course of years, treating the root of the problems at hand can take months and even years. It is important to find a licensed professional who has experience in dealing with ACEs. Despite the complexity of the trauma, healing can be found with enough time and commitment.

Many teens and adults seek counseling to help them cope with the memories of traumatic childhood incidents. If you decide to seek counseling, it is important to share these incidents with your counselor. Let them know how they affected your view of the world, your mental health and your physical health. Counseling can help you understand why past incidents are bubbling up in your present day living and teach you skills to cope with the memories, feelings, and even body sensations that can linger from traumatic incidents (panic attacks). Counselors are trained to listen and will know how to help!

Please check out the following website for more information on ACEs, local community events, tests to take to determine your ACEs score and your score on resilience factors: https://www.acesconnection.com/

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