The ACE study (adverse childhood experiences) is an ongoing study involving 17,000 participants.
It reveals 'staggering proof' of the affects of childhood trauma on health. The number of participants, and their findings, are, to me, convincing and significant. To me, it goes a long way to proving links between childhood experiences and health later in life; of particular interest to this blog, is the relationship between childhood adversities and chronic pain in adulthood.
This fascinates me greatly. Research claims (and I will post links below) that unpredictable, continued and unpleasant experiences- adversities- in childhood and early teens, can go on to cause harm to the developing brain. This in turn may lead to autoimmune problems, cancers, heart disease, chronic pain, headaches (and much more) in adulthood.
The research suggests that when we are exposed to unpredictable and chronic physiological stress in childhood our stress response goes into overdrive. Scientists claim that we are then less able to respond correctly to stresses in the future. A child's brain that is put into stressful situations over and over again, will be on a permanent state of alert. The body cannot and does not switch off. Chemicals and hormones that are released in stressful situations, will be flooding the child's body leading to inflammation. Normally a child should learn from stressful situations and respond to them, and recover. Conversely, in children who experience chronic stresses, small chemical markers adhere to the genes involved in controlling their response to stress. The function of these genes then becomes altered and they are on 'high alert' all the time, which promotes inflammation and disease.
Additionally, the part of the DNA that protects the genome wears away, and exposes the person to disease because the cells age faster. For any child who has experienced adversity, the link between this adversity, and their mental and physical health is very strong. This relationship between childhood adversity experiences, and poorly managing stress later in life were found to be greater in girls than in boys.
Scientists further found that a developing brain with chronic exposure to stress, will actually alter its shape. The part of the brain responsible for managing stress, emotions and emotional memory, in fact shrinks. So therefore children exposed to stress, especially chronic stress are less able to handle it in adult life.
Stress can affect all aspects of your life, including your physical health. It is well established that ongoing stress will worsen any pain that we have. (I have discussed how stress can affect pain on a previous page.)
The ACE study
7 ways childhood adversity changes your brain
Suffice it to say then, that the old saying 'That which does not kill us, makes us stronger' (Nietzsche, F. (1889) Twilight of the idols) is in fact not true for many.
(shared from pinterest)
On the contrary, one could argue, it depends on the experience and the individual. Many would say they are who they are because of past experiences and traumas, and that past adversities have made them stronger.
I am just suggesting that for many, this is not the case, and for these individuals, the hurt they witnessed or experienced as a child or young teenager, has directly affected them and their body in an adverse way now that they are an adult.
There are ways to recover- knowledge is power after all. Researchers suggest things such as writing your memories down, therapy, yoga, mindfulness and meditation. Perhaps just realising that the picture painted above is actually you, may start the healing process. If it does, then I hope so.