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ACES and your health — what does it mean?

Have you heard of the ACES study?  It’s a study that began in 1994 that looked at Adverse Childhood Experiences and their relationship to current physical health.  The results are sobering,  and point to the need for treatment of childhood trauma, even when we are adults.

An Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE) is defined as experiencing any of the following categories of abuse, neglect, or loss prior to age 18:

  • Physical abuse by a parent
  • Emotional abuse by a parent
  • Sexual abuse by anyone
  • Growing up with an alcohol and/or drug abuser in the household
  • Experiencing the incarceration of a household member
  • Living with a family member experiencing mental illness
  • Domestic violence
  • Loss of a parent
  • Emotional neglect
  • Physical neglect

It turns out that experiencing four or more of these “adverse events” increased a person’s risk in adulthood for:

  • increased risk for smoking, alcoholism and drug abuse
  • increased risk for depression and suicide attempts
  • poor self-rated health
  • 50 or more sexual partners
  • greater likelihood of sexually transmitted disease
  • challenges with physical inactivity, and severe obesity
  • likelihood of attempted suicide across the lifespan
  • increased risk for broken bones
  • heart disease
  • lung disease
  • liver disease
  • multiple types of cancer

Keep in mind that studies show likelihoods, not predictions, so if you score high on the ACES scale, don’t panic or despair.  But if you have symptoms of anxiety or depression, or feel that your childhood experiences have impacted your life in a negative, seeking out therapy is a good idea, for your physical health as well as your emotional health.

The above information is from AceResponse.org

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