The latest research is showing a clear connection between childhood experiences and various physical and mental health problems in adulthood.
Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) are correlated with higher incidence of chronic conditions like:
* heart disease
* autoimmune issues
* liver disease
Adverse Childhood Experiences and Traumas
Now when I use the word “trauma” many people think “Oh I didn’t have a traumatic childhood, I wasn’t abused or anything.” There are many types of trauma so I use it the broadest sense of the word.
People automatically think of what we call “Big T” Traumas.”
These include obvious situations of threatened or actual injury, serious accidents, death of someone, losing a caregiver, homelessness, physical, sexual, and emotional abuse, physical and emotional neglect, substance abuse, or dealing with mental illness.[pullquote]It doesn’t have to be something that happened to you. It can be something you witnessed, or something that happened to a caregiver, relative or friend.[/pullquote]
Then there are a million different “little t” traumas.”
Any situation which exceeds your capacity to cope in that moment can be registered in your brain as a trauma…including things like:
* an overly critical parent
* an emotionally absent parent
* gaining a new family member
* being bullied
* being belittled
* moving to a new neighborhood
* disagreements with significant people
* accidents, or hospitalizations
* unhappy or depressed or anxious parents
* substance abuse in the family
Both Big T Traumas and little t traumas are Adverse Childhood Experiences. Sometimes a traumatic situation could be a little t or a Big T, depending on your situation.
The Body Remembers[Babette Rothschild wrote a great book by that name.]
Because of the way that Adverse Childhood Experiences are stored as memories in the brain, both the brain and the body remember them. They become part of your biology.
The same way you may emotionally try to put ACEs out of your mind and “move on,” your body may store the impact of ACEs away out of consciousness.
But many years later you may start to have physical expression of illness due to the unresolved trauma.
In order to heal, both the physical illness and the unresolved trauma need to be treated.
Childhood experiences can contribute to cancer in adulthood? To heart disease? To Lyme disease? It seems so.
Treating cancer or heart disease or Lyme disease means treating emotional trauma too? It seems so.
Astounding Research Statistics
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Kaiser Permanente studied Adverse Childhood Experiences and correlated them with health statistics of participants over a lifetime.
Rates of disease for those with ACEs were found to be:
• 4.5 times higher for depression
• 3.5 times higher for heart disease
• 2 times higher for cancer
• 3 times higher for lung cancer
• 2.5 times higher for hepatitis
• 2.5 times higher for COPD
Disease rates were worse for those with multiple ACEs.
Risk of suicide was 12 times higher for those with multiple ACEs.
With two or more ACEs, you’re 100% more likely to be diagnosed with rheumatic diseases.
It’s Not All in Your Head
It is believed that the effects of trauma creates chronic inflammation in the body which contributes to a multitude of diseases. These are often diseases for which there does not seem to be an obvious cause (i.e. the doctors can’t explain it).
Sometimes it even surfaces as a mysterious set of symptoms that defies diagnosis. I see many clients who have seen a multitude of doctors who cannot figure out what’s really wrong.
Conditions are often misdiagnosed and patients are often made to feel that it’s all their head. Sometimes they have been told this directly. Sometimes doctors have refused to continue seeing them.
You Are Not Just a Body
We have long known there are emotional contributors to disease. These days we regularly hear how stress (an emotional state) contributes to and worsens so many diseases.
Anxiety (an emotional state) is correlated with many physical ills.
Disease is not just physical because you are more than just your body. You are body-mind-spirit-emotions-energy. Real healing comes from tending to all of who you are.