The Impactful Nature of Childhood Adversity — And Assurances to Help You Move On

The recollection of childhood traumas and impactful experiences within them are not only to be considered a distant aspect of your past, with such substantial amounts of time between said event and the present that you need not dwell within it’s emotional implications; this being said, many developments in this area have been made to prove the theory that childhood trauma may actually be a large contributor to adult mental illness, or general health issues later in life, for those that were victims of it or a similar factor.

A recently produced NPR poll on March 2nd, 2015, on behalf of Nurse.com introduced this very concept, conducted on behalf of a partnership with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, the study itself based around the responses that American subjects over the age of 18 gave. The report, released March 2, shows nearly 4 in 10 Americans say they had one or more childhood experiences they believe had a harmful effect on their health. The trauma itself being addressed centralizes around and can be defined as the death or severe illness of a close family member or friend, being exposed to a divorce, whether it occurred in a civil manner or otherwise, having a severe physical injury or life impacting condition, or having a close relative and/or friend lose a career, or something similar of that degree of severity.

This poll is certainly not the first socially constructed piece to arise on the matter — the 1990’s brought together the two minds of Dr. Vincent Felitti, now presently the director of the California Institute of Preventative Medicine in San Diego, as well as epidemiologist named Dr. Rob Anda, who, at the time of the conduction of research, was a member of the staff at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The two doctors collaborated on a series of revealing questions and asked the 17,000 or so patients to name up to 10 different types of adverse childhood experiences that had potentially occurred during adolescence, which included sexual, physical or emotional abuse; neglect; loss of a parent from death, divorce or incarceration; mental illness in a parent; and drug or alcohol abuse by a parent. This particular study was entitled Adverse Child Experiences, or ACE; it is often referenced regarding matters of childhood trauma research, with the scale and its’ questions still accessible due to the stunning revelations they offered. In order to get a sense of what behaviors they had bore exposure to as children, as well as to develop a heightened understanding of the assorted categories of trauma faced, the two doctors created a platform upon which to address issues derived from like-minded citizens, and work to understand the impactful nature of them, and why it occurs. These early occurrences could provide insight into the nature of their long-term health as an adult, and whether it had been largely impacted.

In short, each occurrence and/or event was provided a specific number, scaled out appropriately on a score sheet specific to each individual participant. Though the information had come only as a rough estimate, the results were startling nonetheless; the numbers ultimately revealed that about one in ten of the subjects had grown up with the presence of domestic violence, and experiences to recall it. Two in ten of the subjects had been exposed to sexual abuse. Three in ten participants had been physically abused in a domestic manner. Upon the initial revealing of the information, the reaction was not one that followed pre-meditated expectations; Dr. Rob Anda states in response to the findings, “I thought that people would flock to this information, and be knocking on our doors, saying ‘Tell us more. We want to use it.’ And the initial reaction was really silence.” This scale of suffering revealed more than a degree of emotional impact; ailments such as diabetes, likeliness of stroke, and cancer occurred more often among people with higher ACE scores.

Of course, this is not to say that victims of childhood trauma cannot find fulfillment or methods of escape from it, as anything is possible with some degree of resilience. Noam Shpancer, Ph.D. and professor of psychology at Otterbein College, states within his article Insight Therapy, Trauma is linked to heightened risk of disease and disorder, and yet most people who suffer a traumatic experience do not end up diseased and disordered. Most people are resilient in spite of trauma, particularly if they have positive social relationships, if they learn to problem-solve, and if they develop competencies valued by self and society. Ultimately, victims of trauma have the power to adapt within them, despite feeling weighted down in the face of adversity and compromising aspects of thought you’d once firmly grasped. The advancement into fabricating healthy, fulfilling relationships, maintaining a positive mindset regarding your future with newfound and promising companions, and abstaining from falling victim to old traumas will help the advancement of your healing, despite the length of time it takes. “Damaged people are never entirely damaged, just like healthy people are never entirely healthy,” states Shpancer, “it is important for them to locate, acknowledge, nurture, celebrate, and capitalize on their reservoirs of strength.” Therapies involved for treating assorted levels of trauma are often compiled with one another to be effectively utilized, such as pharmacotherapy, behaviour therapy, group therapy, and a variety of others, and are safe alternatives to different levels of treatment.

The takeaway is the fragment of knowledge that suggests no matter what turmoil you’ve found yourself subject to, whether willingly or on the contrary, you can never truly find yourself a victim of irreparable damage, nor be deemed a lost cause — resilience is powerful when utilized, and is present within us all.