ACEs and Toxic StressDownload PDF
What Are ACEs? And How Do They Relate to Toxic Stress?
"ACEs" stands for "Adverse Childhood Experiences." These experiences can include things like physical and emotional abuse, neglect, caregiver mental illness, and household violence.
The more ACEs a child experiences, the more likely he or she is to suffer from things like heart disease and diabetes, poor academic achievement, and substance abuse later in life.
Toxic stress explains how ACEs "get under the skin."
Experiencing many ACEs, as well as things like racism and community violence, without supportive adults, can cause what's known as toxic stress. This excessive activation of the stress-response system can lead to long-lasting wear-and-tear on the body and brain.
The effect would be similar to revving a car engine for days or weeks at a time.
We can reduce the effects of ACEs And Toxic stress.
For those who have experienced ACEs, there are a range of possible responses that can help, including therapeutic sessions with mental health professionals, meditation, physical exercise, spending time in nature, and many others.
The ideal approach, however, is to prevent the need for these responses by reducing the sources of stress in people's lives. This can happen by helping to meet their basic needs or providing other services.
Likewise, fostering strong, responsive relationships between children and their caregivers, and helping children and adults build core life skills, can help to buffer a child from the effects of toxic stress.
ACEs affect people at all income and social levels, and can have serious, costly impact across the lifespan. No one who's experienced significant adversity (or many ACEs) is irreparably damaged, though we need to acknowledge trauma's effects on their lives. By reducing families' sources of stress, providing children and adults with responsive relationships, and strengthening the core life skills we all need to adapt and thrive, we can prevent and counteract lasting harm.