Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) - Overview, Facts, Types, Etc.
ADVERSE CHILDHOOD EXPERIENCES (ACE)

ADVERSE CHILDHOOD EXPERIENCES (ACE)

Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) are stressful and traumatic events or experiences that occurred during childhood, from 0-17 years of age. Growing up, these events left a long-lasting impact on a child which may affect health and behavior. The brain development of the child is also at risk because of the toxic stress that may affect the child’s socialization, thinking, decision-making, and learning as well as negative effects on the child’s sense of safety and stability. Having ACE is very common. Studies found that 61% of adults had experienced at least one ACE and 16% had experienced four or more ACEs which greatly affected females and people from ethnic or racial minority groups.

TYPES

Stressful and traumatic events that are considered a type of ACE include:

  • Domestic violence
  • Witnessing abuse and violence in surroundings
  • Verbal humiliation, bullying and other forms of mental abuse
  • Physical abuse
  • Sexual abuse
  • Neglect in the form of physical or emotional
  • Abandonment
  • Separation or divorce of parents
  • Parent with a mental health condition
  • Imprisonment of a household member
  • Growing up with adults who have alcohol and drug use problems
  • Suicide death or attempt by a family member

SYMPTOMS

ACE gives a long-lasting impact on the child. When a child became an adult, a variety of negative outcomes begins to show. This include:

  • Poor physical health condition. The person is more likely to develop chronic diseases such as cancer, heart-related diseases, and diabetes. It also increases the risk of injury.
  • Depression and mental health conditions that may result in self-harming and other health-harming behaviors such as smoking, high-risk drinking, and substance and drug abuse. It may also lead to suicide. It also makes a person violent and does activities that may lead to imprisonment.
  • Sexually-related outcomes such as teen pregnancy, risk of contracting sexually transmitted infection and diseases, and involvement in sex trafficking.
  • Relationship challenges and struggles such as difficulty with interacting with other people, difficulty in forming healthy and stable relationships, dropping out of school, and job struggles and unemployment.

TREATMENT

The first step in treating and healing one’s self from adverse childhood experiences is by having the courage to recognize it and seek help with a medical practitioner. Having the courage to talk about these experiences is the key to unlocking a better version of one’s self. The health practitioner may recommend taking prescriptions such as antidepressants to help combat mental health conditions and depression caused by toxic stress.

Engaging in activities like practicing the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program which includes mindfulness meditation, exercises like yoga, body awareness, and behavior exploration may help ease mental health conditions. Proper breathing exercises help in boosting the parasympathetic nervous system which helps in calming the body. Practicing yoga helps decrease blood flow in the brain’s alarm center and increases levels of gamma-aminobutyric acid which improves brain function and provides protection against depression.

Prevention

There is no greater cure than prevention. Prevention is done by building up a child’s resilience or the ability to cope up with life’s challenges. The resilience of a child prevents negative outcomes and consequences of ACEs to appear in the later stages of life. Ways to support the building and strengthening a child’s resilience includes:

  • Raising awareness about ACEs
  • Promoting a healthy community
  • Supporting parents and families
  • Promote protection against violence and abuse
  • Campaigns and programs for mental health
  • Connecting the youth to mentoring programs and caring activities

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