Adverse Childhood Experiences: Confronting Childhood Trauma ~ How epigenetics impact long-term health outcomes of children and adults.
Confronting Childhood Trauma ~ Childhood trauma is something that has been at the forefront of public consciousness in recent years. Whether it manifests as sexual abuse, physical abuse, or emotional neglect, childhood trauma can profoundly impact an individual’s well-being as an adult.
What is childhood trauma?
Childhood trauma is a type of abuse that happens during childhood. It can be physical, sexual, emotional, or psychological. This can take the form of neglect and/or physical abuse (including sexual assault), emotional abuse (such as bullying), or psychological abuse (for example, threats to harm a child).
Childhood trauma may be caused by parents or caregivers who are themselves hurting from their own adverse experiences during their childhood. A parent might also be unable to meet their child’s needs because they have mental health problems such as depression or anxiety disorders; they may struggle financially; they may have substance misuse issues; they might live in an unsafe environment where there are no resources available for them to help support their family members when difficulties arise – these are all examples of situations where children experience adversity which could lead them down a path towards developing PTSD later in life
Common ACEs Include:
- Physical and emotional sexual abuse
- Physical and emotional neglect
- Emotional abuse
- Emotional abuse can be expressed in many ways, including:
- Restricting social interactions
- Denying the child an emotional response
- Purposely not talking to the child for extended periods
- Emotional abuse can be expressed in many ways, including:
- Parental mental illness
- Dometic violence
- Substance abuse
- Parental separation (divorce or legal separation)
Each of these unique experiences was given a point value of one during the study. It was discovered that 67 percent of the subjects had at least one point (one adverse childhood experience), and at least one in eight had four points or higher. The correlation here is that the higher the score, the poorer the health outcome of these subjects. That’s right; adverse childhood experiences directly correlate with predictable health outcomes. Multitudinous birth cohorts are impacted by an increased ACE score, but there are five highly prevalent areas worth noting — depression, certain forms of cancer, sexual promiscuity, ischemic heart disease, and arrested brain development.
How does childhood trauma affect a person’s well-being in adulthood?
The effects of ACEs are widespread and can be seen in many aspects of a person’s life.
ACEs can lead to higher rates of depression, anxiety, and substance abuse. A study by the CDC found that adults who experienced four or more ACEs were twice as likely to develop an addiction compared to those who did not experience any ACEs (CDC). This is because trauma has been shown to impact brain development and function (Bremner et al.).
ACEs also have been linked with lower levels of education among adults who experienced them as children (Somerville et al.). This may partially be because more attention must be devoted to dealing with trauma rather than learning new things. Additionally, some research suggests that low socioeconomic status increases vulnerability to exposure to traumatic events such as physical abuse or neglect (Hobfoll et al.).
How do the effects of ACEs play out in the brain and body?
It’s important to understand that the effects of ACEs are not limited to mental health. They also play out in physical health and well-being.
ACEs can lead to depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and other mental health problems. In turn, these can lead to substance abuse or self-harm as people try to cope with painful memories or negative thoughts. These conditions can be disabling on their own but also have severe consequences for physical health: studies have shown that early adversity increases the risk of heart disease; increases susceptibility to infection (and therefore the risk of pneumonia); increases the likelihood of obesity; reduces lifespan by 20 years!
Is it possible to heal from childhood trauma?
Yes, it is possible to heal from childhood trauma. There are many ways to heal from trauma, and they all work differently. One way is by talking about it with someone who understands what you’re going through, like a friend or family member. Another way is by writing down your experiences in a journal so that they can be expressed on paper instead of bottled up inside of you where they feel trapped and alone. You could also use art as an outlet for your feelings–drawing pictures or making sculptures are both great ways to release tension while expressing yourself creatively!
Another effective method of healing from childhood trauma is seeking professional therapy services from a licensed therapist who works with people who have experienced traumatic events (such as abuse).
How does “epigenetics” fit into all of this?
I was introduced to the world of epigenetics while researching the transmission of multigenerational trauma. I became so enamored by the world of epigenetics I decided to study it outside of the boundaries of generational trauma to understand how it impacts long-term health outcomes for individuals. I shared my initial findings in a paper entitled Epigenetics & Psychology. The term epigenetics refers to any process that changes how our genes are expressed. In other words, it’s a process by which environmental factors can change how your DNA is read and interpreted. Epigenetics impacts the upregulation and downregulation of genes.
Understanding how this happens is essential because it helps us understand how ACEs affect health and how we can heal from them or prevent them from happening in the first place.
Adverse childhood experiences have a profound impact on us as adults.
Adverse childhood experiences have a profound impact on us as adults. They can affect our mental, physical, social, and financial health.
A study by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) found that people who experienced at least one ACE have a higher risk of developing chronic conditions such as heart disease or diabetes later in life than people who do not have an ACE history. The CDC also found that multiple ACEs increase your risk of developing these chronic illnesses even more.
In addition to being at higher risk for developing chronic diseases like diabetes or heart disease at an earlier age than those without ACE histories, individuals with adverse childhood experiences are more likely to use tobacco products and alcohol, which can lead to increased rates of cancer diagnoses.
We have a lot to learn about childhood trauma’s effects, but we know that it can profoundly impact us as adults. This is why it’s so important for us to be aware of our own experiences with ACEs–and, if possible, try to heal from them as best we can. The good news is that many resources are available today for people who want help with this process!
If you or a loved one suffers from childhood trauma, learn how to work one-on-one with Dr. Rick Wallace to initiate the healing process!
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