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What are ACEs?

ACEs stands for Adverse Childhood Experiences. Research and understanding on this topic has been a focal point 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 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 experiences can have profound impacts 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 and lung disease, diabetes, substance abuse, depression, and substance use.

Unresolved childhood trauma can also increase a person’s propensity to respond to environmental triggers with anger. In extreme circumstances, victims of ACEs 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 ACEs 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. 

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, as well as reach out for professional support.


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