Childhood Trauma and ACE’s

In the 1990’s the Center for Disease Control discovered an exposure that dramatically increased the risk for developing 7 out of the 10 leading causes of death. In high doses it effects:

  • Brain development
  • The immune system
  • The endocrine system
  • And even how our DNA is read and translated

What the risk is and is not

Children exposed in high doses to this risk had triple the risk of heart disease and cancer. Doctors have not been trained to routine screen for this risk.  It is not a pesticide or pathogen, it is childhood trauma. They are not talking about a child’s trauma from losing a championship ball game but pervasive trauma. This type of trauma can come from abuse, neglect, growing up with mental illness in a parent or substance abuse. It often comes under the title of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE’s).

What it affects

These traumas have been documented to affect how the brain develops. Some of these areas are:

  • The prefrontal cortex – which controls impulse control and executive function
  • The amygdala – which controls the fight or flight response center
  • The nucleus accumbens – the pleasure and reward center
  • The brains stress response system

Adaptive or Maladaptive

The brains stress response system is critical to our normal functioning.  Imagine you are walking down the street and someone angry runs toward you, immediately your adrenal glands start sending out hormones. Your breathing increases, your heart rate goes up, your body is reacting to this stress automatically. That is all very helpful if someone angry is running at you, but what if every day of your young life an angry parent comes at you? What is a wonderfully adaptive response becomes maladaptive, what happens to the brain when this response is activated over and over every day? If you would like to read more about childhood trauma and the Center’s therapeutic response please click on the link below.

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