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What are Adverse Childhood Experiences?

There's a difference between having a bad childhood memory and experiencing psychological trauma.  Not all negative experiences are traumatic. If you can understand childhood trauma, you may find out why you don't feel good and why you behave the way you do now.

Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) are traumatic events that occur during childhood. ACEs can significantly impact a person's physical, emotional, and mental health throughout their life.

Not only does an incident have to be negative to be damaging, but it has to be painful as well. As a consequence, if left untreated, problems usually manifest later in life after the childhood trauma. The trauma has such an impact that it is influencing your ability to cope in healthy ways. Continuing education and assistance are vital to healing all forms of trauma.

Although traumas of all kinds match this definition, the traumas that are purposely handled in interpersonal relationships are the most damaging.  Childhood traumas include:

Physical Abuse. Physical abuse is when you are injured in some tangible manner by those in control over you, like cuts, bruises, scratches, burns, broken bones, or loss of consciousness. Physical injury is often the result of this form of abuse, while sexual abuse often leaves deep emotional wounds.

Emotional Abuse. Emotional abuse occurs when the abuser deliberately damages your identity or intellectual integrity. Threats, scapegoating, confining you to a closet or binding you to a chair, punishing, or forcing you to cause yourself pain are some instances.

Emotional Neglect.  If your abuser has neglected to nurture you or give you the love you need, and your childhood memories revolve around feeling left out, or you have suffered emotional deprivation, your basic needs were not met. The individual feels devalued and unloved in emotional abuse cases, which can have enduring consequences into adulthood.

Sexual Abuse.  If you have been exposed to inappropriate sexual contact or action by a caregiver or other adult, that is childhood sexual abuse. Sexual abuse is typically perpetrated by someone close to the family. (Children who have witnessed sexual abuse will also undergo trauma.)

Physical Neglect.  Physical neglect is physical neglect if your caregiver has neglected to provide you with the material resources you needed while growing up. As a side effect of partner violence, physical neglect may be unintentional. Children who have experienced deprivation of basic everyday needs such as food, clothes, or shelter may feel powerless and, as a result, experience trauma.

Natural Disasters.  The wellbeing and mental health of a child can be affected by living through a natural disaster such as a fire, a flood, a tornado or hurricane, or even a drought. However, if it was handled well by the adults in charge of you, the traumatic consequences will be reduced.

Loss of a Caregiver.  The consequences can be devastating when a child loses their parent or another caregiver. (This is particularly true if, as a result, they have ended up in foster care.) Even the youngest children feel the impact, although some adults think they are too young to realize what has happened. Although they may not understand what has happened, it is this failure to comprehend that causes them more trauma and anxiety.