A few months ago while completing my Chrysalis Effect training I came across the concept of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) and how they can go onto affect the health and wellbeing of adults.
Of course I have been aware of this through personal experience and working as a nurse. But it didn’t realise that it was an actual recognised thing and there have been studies on it!
I was curious and decided to complete the ACE Questionnaire for myself.
So my score was a bit high. Did this mean that my childhood is going to affect the rest of my life? I hope not!
I then looked into it further and thought it would be helpful to share some of the things I learnt.
So what exactly is ACE?
ACE has been defined as experiencing one or more of the following traumas under the age of 18 years old.
- Sexual Abuse
- Recurrent physical and/or emotional abuse
- Witnessing violence at home
- Having a family member with substance misuse issues
- Having a family members in prison
- Living with a family members with mental illness
- Emotional neglect
- Physical neglect
How can it affect you?
The eight categories of adverse childhood experiences are strongly connected and overlap.
If you have multiple categories of childhood exposure you are more likely to have multiple health risk factors later in life.
These can be caused by;
- physiological changes
- harmful behaviours,
- dysfunctional beliefs
- negative social relationships
- emotional difficulties
The ACE Study highlighted that if you have scored 4 or more categories of ACE, compared to those with none, you had more of a risk of the following things:
- mental health problems including depression and anxiety
- alcohol and drug misuse
- increased numbers of sexual partners
- physical inactivity
- poor health behaviour
- Chronic pain
- Heart Disease
- Chronic Lung Disease
- Liver disease
- Broken bones
Why does this happen?
Apparently it is a biological thing. Frequent and prolonged levels of stress as a child can have a toxic affect on your body and harm your developing brain and other organs.
Also, you may have developed some behaviours as a way to cope with your childhood, which in turn have negatively affected your health
If I have a high ACE score, does it mean that I will definitely have health and wellbeing issues?
Not necessarily. If there was another person in your life such as a family member or friend, who you had a nurturing, stable relationship with, then this may have helped you develop the knowledge and skills you needed as an adult.
And remember, although the health and wellbeing impacts of ACE can affect you throughout your life, it doesn’t have to!