Aftershocks: Understanding Adverse Childhood Events and Health Problems that Follow
There’s a deep, shattering connection between adverse childhood events and health. You might sum up that connection in a word: aftershocks. The growing number of children who undergo traumatic episodes experience pain and fear during those episodes. Adverse childhood events (or ACEs) range from physical assault to witnessing domestic abuse to living in the midst of substance addictions. These events transpire at a time of essential brain development. As a result, long after the trauma takes place, the myriad health problems continue.
Inside Adverse Childhood Experiences
During a crisis, none of us stop to ponder what might be happening to us in a long-term sense. But long-term changes may be underway. So, let’s say you’ve endured any of these all-too-common ACEs:
- Emotional and/or physical neglect
- Family member incarcerated or diagnosed with a mental condition
- Abuse (verbal, sexual, physical)
- Domestic abuse, divorce, alcoholism, death in the family
- Economic hardship, homelessness, etc.
In the moment, you may feel the acute jolt. This is usually followed by a chronic sense of crisis — varying from low-level to the extreme. How long the chronic state lasts depends on a broad range of unpredictable factors. That said, there is a third phase that connects adverse childhood events and health.
The Connection Between Adverse Childhood Events and Health
If we were exposed to an environmental toxin, we might logically fear the eventual impact. Unfortunately, most of us aren’t aware of how toxic childhood experiences connect to our health.
Our brains undergo rapid and essential development during childhood. We are not yet equipped to manage intense and ongoing crises. The ensuing trauma can damage the developmental process and lead to health issues in the long-term. Internally, stress produces hormones that are designed to be temporarily present. If hormones like adrenaline and cortisol exist in overload, there is a systemic price to pay.
As adults, we are a little better able to juggle a toxic brew of hormones. It’s far from ideal but our defenses are developed and thus, stronger. As children, we are overmatched. The fallout happens in that moment and re-emerges — in many forms — throughout our lives.
Understanding the Impact
The event happened and the trauma has already resulted. For some of us, We feel recovered and maybe even “moved on.” However, this is not how fallout works. More likely, it manifests in confusing and frustrating ways, e.g.
- Inability to focus on a career path
- Chronic health issues without clear causes
- Depression and anxiety, regardless of circumstances
- Sabotaging healthy relationships
The list goes on but the main point is that child victims often face adult problems — including health issues. ACEs are linked to these problems. But you may not always recognize how.
Managing Adverse Childhood Events and Health
This process begins with a society that recognizes ACEs and the byproducts they create. Victims need to feel safe discussing the events they endured. We must respect the shame and fear that surrounds ACEs. Victims need validation and they need healing. The people in their life can assist in this process by supporting victims with love and understanding.
Part of that healing also requires professional intervention. This firstly means guiding victims to the counseling they need. In addition, an ACE victim’s loved ones can benefit from counseling. As the victim goes through healing therapies, the people in their life can learn how to support them.
No one asks or deserves to be victimized by adverse events during childhood. No one deserves the negative and inevitable health impacts. But each of them needs and deserves all the healing resources that currently exist. Eddins Counseling Group in Houston, TX has trauma specialists trained to address adverse events from childhood. Give us a call at 832-559-2622 or book an appointment online.
Sign up to be notified of group and workshop dates.