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What are ACEs?

ACEs stands for Adverse Childhood Experiences. Research and understanding on childhood adversity have been focal points in recent years highlighting their impacts on daily lives. While not prescriptive, garnering a better understanding of ACE’s can lead to better coping and management. 

ACEs refer to a group of negative childhood experiences, ranging from physical and emotional abuse to household dysfunction, that are linked with increased risk for the development of physical and/or mental illness, as well as relational difficulties. ACEs include emotional, physical, and sexual abuse — as well as neglect.

Research suggests that 1 in 7 children experienced at least one ACE. Regardless of the perception at the time, these early life adverse experiences can have negative effects on relational and personality style years down the road. There is also a strong positive correlation between the number of ACEs experienced and likelihood of poorer health outcomes later in life. These consequences include, but are not limited to, increased risk of heart disease, respiratory problems, diabetes, substance abuse and mental health issues such as depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. The cascading effects of ACEs underscore the importance of early intervention and comprehensive support systems to mitigate their long-term consequences.

Unresolved childhood trauma can also increase a person’s propensity to respond to environmental triggers with anger. In extreme circumstances, victims of traumatic events in childhood may turn to violence and crime. To learn more, take a look at how The Compassion Prison Project is raising awareness about the devastating consequences of ACEs in their short documentary, “Step Inside the Circle”.

Health effects of ACEs can in many cases be managed, repaired or even prevented. Just like if you have a predisposition for high cholesterol, you can either reduce long-term health issues through exercise or you can exacerbate your condition through a poor diet. Exposure to adverse experiences in childhood does not mean that one is destined for a challenging life. Rather, it is a combination of biological factors, psychological factors, and environmental factors that dictate how one might cope with adverse events. 

If you feel like you may have experienced ACEs, you may find it helpful to inform yourself further and even take the official ACE questionnaire to determine your ACE score, as well as reach out for professional support from our mental health providers.


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