Have you suffered from any of the following?
Exposure to domestic violence
Household substance misuse
Household mental illness
Parental separation or divorce
Member of the household in prison
The above list is often referred to as “childhood trauma”. Research has shown how suffering from trauma as a child can have a serious impact on your health over your lifespan.
I became interested in this area after teaching in one of the most deprived areas in the country. In fact, it ranked 12th out of 326 boroughs in the country. I noticed that along with this deprivation, often came “adverse childhood experiences” (ACES). Research has shown that having been exposed to four of more of these experiences during childhood or adolescence has a significant effect on an individual’s health and potentially life expectancy. I taught Psychology and often found that students took this as an option subject because they were struggling with their own mental health. The number of students seeking help from the school counsellor was high.
The first major ACE study examined relations between the number of ACEs reported by more than 17 000 individuals and their health as adults. It found that the more ACE types that individuals reported, the greater their risks of health-harming behaviours as they grew older. Research has suggested this is because the exposure to these experiences drastically affects a child’s developing brain. Consequently affecting their physical and emotional health across their lifetime. (I’ll will post another blog about the developing brain soon).
Early interventions with children at risk can have a dramatic effect on their future.
So what can you do about it once you’re already an adult?
Firstly, knowledge is power! Knowing that your early childhood experiences have played a role in why you may be suffering emotionally or having difficult relationships, is enormously freeing. Once we understand how the past can affect the present and how our tough childhood can affect our adult life, we can begin to start our journey towards a calmer more fulfilling life. We can go to therapy and learn how to literally reboot our brains. We can undo the damage, by creating new neural pathways in the brain and overwrite the negatives ones that were created in our childhood!
If you want to calculate your own ACE score click here. This interesting article will also help you understand why not all children who have a higher ACE score suffer in their adult life.
Look out for my “neural pathway” blog coming soon!
Recommended reading on how childhood trauma affects adulthood
The body keeps the score – Bessel van der Kolk
The deepest well – Dr Nadine Burke Harris
The boy who was raised as a dog – Bruce D Perry