My ACES are too high, now what?
My ACES are too high, now what?
If you have been diagnosed with anxiety, depression, heart disease, cancer or any other mental or physical illness; if you are struggling with addiction, troubled relationships, inability to work, inability to sleep or any other threatening ailment or symptom, take the ACE test. But don’t stop there. Continue with a healing path that will bring health, love, longevity and joyful living.
If you are familiar with the Adverse Childhood Experience study (ACE) but unsure what to do with it, or if you have never heard of the ACE study and are wondering why, one of the reasons may be that many health care professionals question what to do when they have a patient with a high ACE score.
“How can I help someone who says yes to being molested or yes that they watched their dad be handcuffed and taken to prison,” said one practitioner. Unless you are a therapist, counselor or have the extra time to give a patient you may be left in a quandary.
Most professionals believe that this is one of the most important studies of our time. So, the question now becomes, what do I do as a patient and what do I do as a therapist, doctor, health coach or someone in the healing field?
For those who are not familiar with one of the most impactful studies on the human population, this is what it is.
What the Ace Score IS
Kaiser and the Center for Disease Control connected Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) to adult disease by asking 10 simple questions about things that happened prior to turning age 18.
One yes = 1 ACE. Maximum score of 10 and the higher your score the more at risk you are for adult disease, anxiety depression, obesity and addiction.
The ACE study has had a lot of mixed reviews in that many professionals and patients are responding with, “great, 5 out of 10 ACES, Now what?”
First, understand, high ACE scores are not rare. Next, search for ways to heal past traumas. Understanding the roots of addiction, depression, being overweight or having overwhelming anxiety, and their connection to Adverse Childhood Experiences, has many times been described as a feeling of relief. Investigating and answering the question, Now What? Is a foot on the path to health, happiness and quality of life.
How the ACE Score impacts your health
You are this much more likely to get the following disease with an ACE score of 4 or more.
285% more likely to have heart disease, 157% more likely to get cancer, 201% more likely for diabetes, 281% chance for a stroke and the list goes on.
AND with just 2 or more ACES you have a 70% increased risk of MS, type 1 diabetes, Hashimoto's, and an 80% higher risk of lupus, IBS, asthma & eczema.
When midlife hits, our body seems to move to a place where disease is knocking at the door. The younger years of fun and invincibility we think may be gone, and we are left with what does not have to be, rapidly declining health. Push the petal to the metal, for a decline by continuing to be overweight, smoke, drink, lack sleep and exercise. (ways people cope)
The connection that our researchers have made between childhood adversity and adult disease may leave us in a place of stress, anxiety or having to say, "yep, I have that disease and my ACE score is high so now what?"
We live in a body that often shouts at us to do something on our behalf. Panic attacks, anxiety, and even depression are common symptoms of the body saying,
“Hey, I have been carrying around this adversity since you were little. Please deal with it. Process it so I can release it and be healthy again.”
One of the reasons why negative stress from childhood gets stuck in our body is because the adversity is often too much for our little body and brain to process in the moments that it happened.
The negative feeling or toxic stress of childhood adversity gets stuck in our body in the state specific form it originated in. We grow up, much of the memory fades or we block it out, with statements such as, "I got over it," "it’s in the past," "there is nothing I can do about it today." But the fear, sadness, anger and threatening feelings continue to live in the nervous system growing and being triggered.
What to do about your ACE Score
So, is it really in the past? AND more importantly can you do something about it today? The answer is, yes to both! The memory of the event is history, but the body may still be holding on to feelings associated with the event. This toxic stress gets triggered over and over again, building toxicity within the body. This adverse stress continues to strengthen over time. This direct link to your health will absolutely have an impact on your life today.
Toxic stress damages cells and weakens Telomeres. A Telomere is a very important part of the cell. When there is not enough cell strength, the cell dies or reverses and begins multiplying in a crazy, wacked out way that results in what we call disease.
If you have negative beliefs like, "I am unimportant," "I am bad," or If you often feel, angry, worried, nervous or scared, more often than not, this originated in childhood. Statements like, "get over it, it’s in the past," or "its too painful to look at," puts us in a position to tag current events and people with the reasons why we feel bad or threatened, and most likely why we participate in undesirable drama. The unprocessed, old disturbance in our nervous system feels very real when it is activated today. So, we kick the dog, fight with our partner and yell at the kids.
Ways to treat an ACE Score
Processing childhood adversity is not only crucial to your health and longevity it is important to release this long held negative stress in the body for happier healthier relationships. Additionally, it is your story. It is not who you are, but ultimately what happened to you during a time where you had to depend on others for safety, connection, food, shelter and love. Your brain may say, “Hot Stove don’t touch,” but we can look at the adversity with curious eyes and a loving heart that says, “hey I made it through.”
One of the best ways to process childhood adversities is with EMDR therapy. Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. Many therapists and clients describe a shift, a calming and a release and a deeper understanding to their (ACE) event after an EMDR therapy session. “I would always say, the stuff from childhood does not bother me because I did not understand how it lived within me,” reported one client. “I can see and feel the difference after my EMDR therapy sessions.”
Get on the path to a healthy lifestyle. My bookstore is filled with books like, Getting Past Your Past, Feel Better Fast, Brain Maker, and BEAT Autoimmune.
Find a Functional medicine practitioner or ask your doctor about integrative medicine. This along with EMDR therapy is the future of healing!
Integrative practitioners and Medical doctors are saying, "I am tired of not seeing my patients get better or reporting getting sick from the side effects. Addiction to pain killers is higher than ever before, and people are loosing quality of life from pain,illness and disease."
The following laminated charts are helpful for therapists, life coaches, addiction counselors, doctors, and other professions in the healing field to help heal and process ACE’s. Remember thoughts and feelings have energy that create joy or stress in the body. The future of healing is upon us, now let’s get started!
- Heidi Sammons