ACEs are childhood traumatic experiences that can cause toxic stress and can affect physical and mental health. Prolonged exposure to ACEs and toxic stress disrupts development of brain, nervous system, and other biological systems such as the cardiovascular, immune, and hormonal systems. This can lead to many long-term negative outcomes such as depression, anxiety, self injurious behavior, substance abuse, suicide attempts, risk for violence, learning disabilities, difficulties with executive functioning (ADHD), sleep disturbances, and dissociation, as well as obesity, asthma, cancer, cardiac and autoimmune diseases, chronic pain or chronic illness, or poor academic or work achievement.
The 10 most common ACEs are:
6. Mental illness in a member of the household
7. Family member incarcerated
8. Mother treated violently (domestic violence)
9. Household substance abuse
10. Parental separation or divorce
Adverse experiences result in the body's natural stress response. When we are truly in a dangerous situation, for example when we encounter a bear in the woods, this stress response is adaptive and life saving. Our brain sends stress hormones (cortisol, adrenaline) to our bodies to react fast and keep us safe. But if the exposure to stress is prolonged or chronic (for example: "If the bear comes home every night" (Nadine Burke Harris, 2014), the stress becomes toxic and damages the developing brain and body.
ACEs are very common. Repeated studies have shown that 67% -- or two out of three people -- have experienced at least one of the 10 ACEs. 12.5% -- or one in eight people -- have experienced four or more of the 10 ACEs, which increases the risk for negative outcomes significantly. Currently, 34.8 million children in the USA are estimated to have at least one ACE.
Give us a call to make an individual appointment, or contact us at (630) 256-8007 to hear more about the professional presentations and trainings we provide to the community about ACEs, Trauma Informed Care, or Trauma Sensitive Schools.
Our practice asks every client about exposure to adversity and trauma, because we know that stressful life events can have an impact on the health and wellbeing of children and adults. Understanding what you or your child has experienced is part of giving you good care.
All of our clinicians and staff are trained in the science of ACEs and we are able to answer any questions you may have about adverse childhood experiences, or your personal ACE score.
We will also work with you to utilize and continue to build your Resilience, or the ability to bounce back and overcome adversity and adapt in healthy ways. We can teach you about the six domains of stress health (mental health, meditation and mindfulness, healthy relationships, sleep, nutrition, and diet) as well as about the importance of self-care, which all have been proven to combat and even reverse the damaging effects of (traumatic) stress.