Twenty years of consistent research shows that hidden traumas affect adult health. In addition to the original 1995 Kaiser Permanente research project, there have been over 65 other studies that validate the long-term impact of Adverse Childhood Experiences on adult physical health.
In March 2015, a new study was published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine on the effects of ACEs on the physical health of adults. They randomly selected adults from ten states and D.C. and interviewed them via a telephone survey using most of the same questions that were asked in the 1995 study. The questions covered nine possible ACEs, including physical, sexual and emotional abuse, household member mental illness, alcoholism, drug abuse, imprisonment, divorce and intimate partner violence.
When compared to those who reported no ACE exposure during childhood, adults who reported one to three, four to six or seven to nine ACEs, had an increased risk of heart attacks, asthma, fair/poor health, frequent mental distress, and disabilities. For example, the odds of having coronary heart disease and stroke as adults were found to be significantly higher for those who reported four to six and seven to nine ACEs. The odds of getting diabetes where significantly higher for those reporting even only one to three and four to six ACEs.
A 2014 study conducted phone interviews with adults about ACEs. More than half (57%) reported at least one ACE and 23% reported disability as adults. Again, the results showed a significant correlations between the number of ACEs people reported and the occurrence of serious adult health problems such as those listed above.
A 2013 study used the same instrument to do a telephone survey of adults in five different states. Their results showed that the number of ACEs was significantly related to insufficient sleep problems in participants.
With a solid research foundation now in place, the focus in the field of mental health is now on two things. The first is how to prevent this early developmental trauma and how to mediate its impact in young children with early intervention programs. The second is how to help adults who have trauma-related health issues.
Making Sense of Your Childhood
The integrative approach of Dr. Dan Siegel and others indicates that the most effective way to help adults who experienced adverse childhood experiences is for them to make sense of their early childhood experiences. The process connecting the dots between adverse childhood experiences and the problems people are having in their relationships and their health is quite profound. It helps to integrate not only the left and right hemispheres of the brain, but also the two hemispheres. This rewiring the circuitry of one’s brain helps to heal the impact of early childhood traumas. Our clinical research indicates that many people either forget about these ACEs, or they create stories to “normalize” them.
Our experiences in helping people connect the dots between childhood trauma and adult physical and mental health issues showed that many of their hidden traumas were the result of neglect not abuse. This adverse childhood experience was not researched in these studies and is even more difficult to identify and heal.
This 15 minute video below gives an excellent overview of trauma, and shows how stress and trauma cause chronic pain, anxiety, depression and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
We’ve created the Freaked Out 101 online course to help people connect the dots hidden developmental traumas and physical health problem in adulthood. It includes six self-assessment instruments to help you learn more about the kinds of adverse childhood experiences that might be problematic for you. Given the correlation between childhood trauma, this course could save your life!