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ACES, Toxic Stress and Trauma


ACES

Adverse Childhood Experiences, or ACEs are events that occur in childhood (0-17 years) deemed to be potentially traumatic. Environmental factors which compromise the child's sense of safety, bonding, and stability contribute to ACEs as well.


​According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), ACEs can have significant, lasting effects in all areas of adult life and interfere with life opportunities. ACEs can negatively impact a person's physical and emotional health and shape unwanted behaviors which impact job performance and relationships.



Toxic Stress

"Toxic stress from ACEs can change brain development and affect such things as attention, decision-making, learning, and response to stress" (CDC, 2021). Toxic stress can occur as a result of prolonged exposure to ACEs without appropriate support from caregiver(s). Examples of ACEs include:


  • instability due to parental separation or household members being in jail or prison

  • experiencing violence, abuse, or neglect (physical, emotions, sexual)

  • frequent moving, evictions, homelessness

  • growing up in a household with a member with mental health problems

  • witnessing violence in the home or community

  • living with household member with substance use problems

  • limited educational and economic opportunities

  • having a family member attempt or die by suicide


Not all people who've experienced ACEs developed toxic stress or trauma, but for those who have, it is imperative to seek professional support. Research suggests therapies that center around Mindfulness help, specifically yielding improvements in behavior and health (Whitaker, Dearth-Wesley, Gooze, Becker, Gallagher, & McEwen, 2014).

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