How Childhood Trauma May Show Up in Our Behavior Later in Life
One thing that is important to keep in mind is that the ACEs study only surveyed people about ten traumatic events, yet many other things may cause trauma in children and young adults. These may include heavy traumatic events, such as losing a friend in a car accident, or more covert micro-traumas which aren’t always noticeable on a day-to-day basis.
One of the micro-traumas that I like to highlight is the reward system that we often see in our culture. When somebody does something good, we give them praise. When they do something bad, we either don’t give them praise or we criticize or judge.
– Jason Prall
It turns out that the more traumatic events that we endure in childhood, the more likely we are to adopt behaviors that we know to be bad for our health. These include some prevalent issues such as drinking alcohol in excess, smoking, and doing illicit drugs, but also some behavioral patterns that are not generally seen as harmful.
Consider perfectionism, for example. Being a perfectionist can be detrimental to our health because the pressure that we put on ourselves to maintain a perfect image, get the perfect grades, or host the perfect party, can wire our body, mood, and belief system into patterns that don’t serve our overall health. To make matters worse, this type of behavioral trait is rewarded in our society.
Or perhaps your primary caregivers often expressed disappointment in you while you were young. Your emotional intelligence wasn’t developed, and all you really understood was pain. These small traumas aren’t always accounted for, but they contribute to and create those negative belief patterns and habits we discussed above.
The link Between ACEs and Disease
About 33% of American adults report zero ACEs. And this is only a 10-question questionnaire. About fifty-one percent of the population reported one to three ACEs, and about 16% of the population reports four to eight cases. – Jason Prall
When we study the correlation between ACEs/childhood trauma and disease, we can see that among adults who reported one to three childhood ACEs, one in nine is alcoholic, one in forty-three uses IV drugs, and one in seven has heart disease; that is double the rate of heart disease than for somebody who reported no ACEs. One in ninety-six adults attempt suicide with no childhood ACEs whereas one in ten attempt suicide with one to three ACEs.
This data clearly shows that there is a strong correlation between adverse childhood experiences and our health later in life.
The experiences we have in childhood shape our lives as adults. A study made by the CDC and Kaiser Permanente revealed that some childhood experiences are strongly linked to health issues in adulthood.
If you have between one and three ACEs, you are at a higher risk of becoming an alcoholic, using IV drugs, and having heart disease compared to people who don’t have any of these traumatic experiences.
The ACEs study was groundbreaking and gave people some tangible factors to look at when it came to the prevalence of certain lifestyle-driven diseases. However, a major drawback is that the study only focused on ten different traumatic experiences and didn’t consider the many other different types of trauma and micro-trauma, all of which may have significant impacts on our health later in life.
There is a strong correlation between the experiences we have in childhood and our health status later in life. However, it is also clear that the majority of us will have a hard time avoiding childhood trauma. So how do we prevent trauma from evolving into health issues later in life? We will cover that in the next article.