Early childhood trauma is a risk factor for almost everything, from adult depression to PTSD and most psychiatric disorders, as well as a host of medical problems, including cardiovascular problems such as heart attack and stroke, cancer, and obesity.
What changes can occur due to trauma?
Behavioral changes resulting from trauma. People who are suffering from traumatic memories may try to escape them by participating in risky behaviors such as drinking, smoking, drug use, or even overeating for comfort. Those can all be used as a coping mechanism, a way of dealing with emotional dysregulation that occurs when someone has been traumatized. These habits, in turn, lead to health problems. Even when you don’t participate in high-risk behavior, you’re more likely to have a worse health outcome.
Physical effects related to trauma. The problem goes beyond unhealthy habits. Experts believe that there is actually a direct biological effect that occurs when your body undergoes extreme stress. When you experience something anxiety-provoking, your stress response activates. Your body produces more adrenaline, your heart races, and your body primes itself to react. Someone who has experienced trauma may have stronger surges of adrenaline and experience them more often than someone who has not had the same history. This causes wear and tear on the body. Stress responses have also been demonstrated in people who have experienced discrimination throughout their lives. It ages your system faster.
Chronic stress can increase inflammation in the body, and inflammation has been associated with a broad range of illness, including cardiovascular disease and autoimmune diseases. Early trauma disrupts the inflammatory system. This can lead to long-term aberrations in this system and chronic health problems triggered by constant inflammation. Typically, the more trauma you’ve experienced, the worse your health is.
Do we need to care? What exactly were the ACE-study findings?
About two-thirds of individuals reported at least one adverse childhood experience; 87% of individuals who reported one ACE reported at least one additional ACE.
The number of ACEs was strongly associated with adulthood high-risk health behaviors such as smoking, alcohol and drug abuse, promiscuity, and severe obesity, and correlated with ill-health including depression, heart disease, cancer, chronic lung disease and shortened lifespan.
Compared to an ACE score of zero having 4 or more points on the ACE questionnaire resulted in 2.5 times more chance of having OCPD, 2.5 times more chance of having hepatitis, 4.5 times more chance for the onset of depression, 12 (!!) times more risk of suicidality.
The ACE study’s results suggest that maltreatment and household dysfunction in childhood contribute to health problems decades later.
These include chronic diseases—such as heart disease, cancer, stroke, and diabetes. The study’s findings, while relating to a specific population within the United States, might reasonably be assumed to reflect similar trends in other parts of the world, according to the World Health Organization.
If you want to take the ACE-questionnaire yourself, you can take the test here.
If you want to find out about how the ACE-study was set up, click here.
If you want to know more about what childhood trauma is, click here.
Resources and References.
Online article click Past trauma may affect future health Harvard Health Publishing.
Online article from Wikipedia, Adverse Childhood Experiences Study.
Picture from CleanPNG.