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So, I have a High ACEs Questionnaire Score. Now What?

The answer to that question depends on how old you are and how long the exposure to the ACE impact has been allowed to continue without mitigation. Like everything else, the earlier the problem is detected the easier and less painful the solution is likely to be.

There has been a lot of research on the ACE questionnaire and how Adverse Childhood Experiences are indicators of future health outcomes for children. Yet very little has been proven on what the actual mechanism is for ACEs to impact future health. It is fair to say that the leading hypothesis has the impact starting with stress leading to chronic stress because stress produces hormonal responses (fight or flight as an example) these stress hormones, if chronic, impact the body. They can cause chronic illness because of the effects on the cardiovascular system and the immune system. They can also lead to mental health issues like depression, low self-esteem, anger issues, and suicidal tendencies, or even serve as catalysts for future risky behavior involving alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs.

Young Adults With ACEs

What about young adults that are not likely to benefit from early mitigation strategies how do we use the knowledge of their ACEs exposure to improve their life potential. It is likely that most physical impacts have already been hardcoded by chronic exposure to the stress hormones into their brains and bodies, and they are well on their way to a poor outcome. It is also likely that societal impacts due to inequality and poor school performance have also made their impact. Given this knowledge and information, it would be very unfortunate if we did not try to do something to improve their lives. If nothing else, we must assist them in breaking the ACE cycle for the future generation.

Let us break down the impacts and at this stage of development, we should use the adult ACEs screening data to identify potential impacts and work at prevention. The other option is to address the symptoms rather than the cause. So, the question then becomes. What can we do when we know that these adults are likely to be impacted? Let us look at each area independently:

Physical Health Impacts

People with multiple ACEs have a higher incidence of cardiovascular problems the medical profession can use this information to specifically address the prevention such as exercise, diet, healthy living, and increased screening for early illness detection.

High ACEs also manifest with a higher probability of Obesity and Diabetes and a shorter life span; again, lifestyle improvements and early screening can improve outcomes.

Cancer and Immune system problems are probably more difficult to address. Medical research on how to prevent immune problems is less advanced so early screening is less developed and lifestyle improvements do not seem to have an impact. There is some limited experience that shows an improvement with a sense of belonging.

Mental Health Impacts

All people with high ACEs have a greater probability of manifestations of depression, low self-esteem, and suicide. But in this area treatment must be trauma-specific and not just general. Mental Health professionals should direct the person to resources capable of dealing with the specific ACE for each person as well as teaching resilience. Here the support groups and non-profit organizations that deal with the specific traumas are of immense value. Substance abuse problems are where mental health impacts cross over to societal impacts and deserve special treatment.

Take Action

It is also vital that you find a doctor that you are completely comfortable around. Having a good patient- In conclusion, we cannot abandon the adults that have been subject to ACEs, yet the mitigation of those impacts is much more difficult and requires a societal will to change and to make things better. The only way we will achieve this is through education and exposing the impacts of ACEs to the general population.

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