“It’s just a phase, I’ll pull out of it.”
“It’s this bad habit I picked up when I was a kid.”
“I don’t understand why he/she cannot hold down a job. Maybe it’s just laziness.”
“I just need more willpower. If I had more self-control, I would be able to lose this weight.”
If you find yourself saying any of the above about yourself or someone else, take a minute to consider that there may be a more serious, underlying problem occurring.
Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE)
It has not been until the last decade or so that researchers have been able to study the long-term effects of childhood trauma. Childhood trauma can be such a vague term; however, researchers have developed the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) questionnaire as a way to encompass many (but certainly not all) childhood experiences that could be considered traumatic. The ACE questionnaire includes experiences of physical and emotional neglect or abuse, sexual abuse, witnessing domestic violence, having household members who were addicted to substances, having parents go through a divorce, having a household member in jail, and more. To view the entire ACE questionnaire, please click the following link:
Over time, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) has been able to link higher experiences of childhood trauma to an astonishing and downright ghastly number of chronic illnesses and/or extreme dysfunction in one’s social, emotional, and physical wellbeing. This includes a higher likelihood of suicide attempts, impaired job performance, development of liver disease, addiction to alcohol or drugs, eating disorders, onset of hypertension, and chronic depression, among many others.
Of course, this is not to say that every single person who has had any of the experiences listed in the ACE questionnaire are destined to become ill as adults. Throughout my career as a therapist, I have found that it is not necessarily the traumatic incident itself that causes long-term negative effects, but rather, the negative effects and symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder can develop when the traumatic incident is left untreated.
We cannot stop devastating things from happening to us as children or adults, but we can take action to help ourselves and our children find meaning in the trauma so that we can keep moving forward to happier, healthier, and ultimately more fulfilling lives.
To Learn More
To view more information on the original CDC-Kaiser Permanente ACE study, or to view more information on the long-term effects of untreated childhood trauma, please see the following links:
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