Adverse Childhood Experiences Are Related To Mental And Physical Health Problems In Adults

The large scale Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) studies sponsored by the Centers for Disease Control found powerful relationships between ACEs and mental and physical health problems in adults, including alcohol and drug addiction and cigarette smoking, as well as depression, suicide, obesity, respiratory disorders and a host of stress-related physical illnesses. However, the number of categories of adverse childhood exposures also showed a graded relationship to the presence of adult diseases including ischemic heart disease, cancer, chronic lung disease, skeletal fractures, and liver disease. (That is, as the number of ACEs increase, there is an increase in the percentage of adults with mental and physical health problems.)

With respect to substance use disorders, these findings contradict the prevailing view that the cause is inherent in some “addictive nature” of the substances. (Reference is also made to a finding that many soldiers used heroin while in Vietnam during the war, yet few continued their use when they returned home.) Moreover, these findings are probably part of the reason substance abuse treatment outcomes are poor (e.g., according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, of the 1.37 million clients in residential treatment in 2005, only 44 percent even completed treatment) and indicate a need to identify and effectively treat unresolved emotional trauma as an essential part of the overall treatment approach.

Traditional therapies are often ineffective in treating emotional trauma and the prevailing view appears to be that post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a permanent condition. However, research on the applications of Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) show that emotional trauma and PTSD can be effectively treated and even completely resolved in many cases.

(The ACE studies can be found at http://www.cdc.gov/ace/index.htm. EMDR research can be found at http://emdr.nku.edu/definition/research.php.)

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