Trauma & Chronic Illness – Clean Coach Carly

Trauma & Chronic Illness

The History of ACES

Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs). In recent years, researchers have begun to catch on to what many of our bodies have already been telling us: trauma of the mind = trauma of the body. As Bessel A. van Kolk says in The Body Keeps the Score, “We have learned that trauma is not just an event that took place sometime in the past; it is also the imprint left by that experience on mind, brain, and body. This imprint has ongoing consequences for how the human organism manages to survive in the present.” 

The original ACE Study was conducted by Kaiser from 1995 to 1997. Over 17,000 Health Maintenance Organization members received exams along with confidential questionnaires regarding their past childhood experiences and their present health conditions. This study showed an elevated risk for a variety of health concerns for people who had experienced more adverse childhood experiences.   

As Dr. Nadine Burke Harris explains in her TedTalk, when this research was rediscovered as a potential identifier for predicting future health concerns, a large part of the medical research community tried to blame behavior for health concerns. Meaning, when a person experienced a high amount of ACEs, they were more likely to have reckless behavior that could lead to things like heart disease and lung cancer (like smoking, overeating, and alcohol consumption). But thankfully, Dr. Harris and others were wise enough to push past this feedback. 

“In high doses, ACEs impact brain development, hormonal systems, immune systems and can even the way our DNA is transcribed” 

- Dr. Nadine Burke Harris

This information is now being shared and doctors, teachers and other important protective facilitators are learning how ACEs might impact a person’s wellbeing.

Watch this TedTalk on the Discovery of ACES 

Where Do You Identify on the ACEs Scale and What Does that Mean?

Curious about your ACEs score? Take this quiz! This is a free, non-gendered quiz. You can also find ACE’s quizzes specifically for your gender online.  

ACEs are identified in three categories: abuse, neglect, and household challenges. While these are an insightful groundwork for how trauma impacts future health development, there are also factors missing from this quiz that could potentially impact the wellbeing of the person in question. These additional factors include stress outside of the household, protective factors (discussed in resilience score) and the individual differences of circumstances and the way a child responds to the situations. It is important to remember that these scores are just the beginning and are not the come-all-end-all of questions when it comes to identifying traumatic experiences and health concerns.

What Your ACEs Score Means

Interpreting the score is pretty simple. A higher score means that you are at higher risk for health problems later in life. 

What this is not

Your score is not intended so that you can blame your parents for everything that happens in your life. It is also not a tool to further traumatize or shame you for what you are experiencing. It is merely a tool to help you understand how your body physically might have been impacted by the traumatic experiences of your childhood.   

What it is 

The ACEs quiz is a tool to help you be better equipped to understand how your story impacts your health, better help the community around you, and empower you to prevent potential health risks you might be susceptible to. If you know that you run a higher risk of heart problems, you can start preventative matters now. 

This is also a great reminder of what happens when our body is under a great deal of stress for prolonged periods of time. If you know that stress impacts your adrenal glands and your adrenal glands can impact...well, basically everything, what might you need to do to repair your adrenal glands and reset your body? 

How can you create more peace in your life? 

What additional healing steps do you need to take to recovery from stress and how will you handle stress in the future? 

Our bodies are holistic. We cannot avoid it. What happens in our minds impacts our bodies. What happens to our bodies impacts our minds. If you are having health problems, could therapy potentially be necessary for your healing process? If you are in therapy, do you need to also be taking supplements or avoiding artificial sweeteners? 

Whether or not you have a high ACE score, this study if an important reminder that trauma and stress penetrate the entirety of us. When you are healing, you have to take steps to heal mind, body, soul, and spirit. 

Aces Resilience Scores 

Take this quiz to identify your Ace’s resilience score. Your resilience score shows the alternative factors that may help combat your initial ACES scores. If you have a high resilience score, you may still be at a higher risk of developing health problems. However, you ability to overcome them and manage the aspects of your health you can control will be much more likely. 

If you are an adult with a low resilience score, this can inform you as to what you might need to seek in your life currently. How can you cultivate a healthy community? How can you work through feelings of neglect and create abundant relationships in the present? Even if you have a high resilience score, these are key factors for any person to pay attention to if they desire a healthy life. Studies show that your community plays a vital role in your overall health. 

Take Away 

Science is beginning to pay attention to something most trauma survivors would have told you years ago: our experiences impact our bodies. Simply being out of a traumatic situation does not mean that you are now whole and healthy. In fact, it is often in safe places that we begin to unravel all that we have held together amidst the chaos. 

ACEs are a helpful tool to help identify potential future health concerns for children, but it can also be helpful to piece together the story of an adult’s life.

While not all health concerns are caused by actions, actions can help prevent health concerns. This means that if you have experienced early childhood trauma, you don’t have to participate in reckless behavior in order to experience health problems in the future. BUT, you can try to prevent them by making informed choices for your body now.  

If you are ready to heal your body from trauma, chronic disease, chronic pain or mental illness, schedule your free consultation with me here.

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