“Childhood Disrupted”: ACEs and Your Physical Health

What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger?
Not quite. Far more often, the opposite is true. Donna Jackson Nakazawa, author of Childhood Disrupted

Two-thirds of American adults are carrying wounds from childhood quietly into adulthood, with little or no idea of the extent to which these wounds affect their daily health and wellbeing. Something that happened to you when you were five or 15 can land you in the hospital 30 years later, whether that something was headline news, or happened quietly, without anyone else knowing it, in the living room of your childhood home. Donna Jackson Nakazawa

Science journalist Donna Jackson Nakazawa‘s new Childhood Disrupted: How Your Biography Becomes Your Biology, and How You Can Heal is introduced by Jane Stevens, ACEsConnection.com, in the following review:

If you want to know why you’ve been married three times. Or why you just can’t stop smoking. Or why the ability to control your drinking is slipping away from you. Or why you have so many physical problems that doctors just can’t seem to help you with. Or why you feel as if there’s no joy in your life even though you’re ‘successful’…..(r)ead Childhood Disrupted, and you’ll learn that the problems you’ve been grappling with in your adult life have their roots in childhood events that you probably didn’t even consider had any bearing on what you’re dealing with now. Donna Jackson Nakazawa does a thorough and outstanding investigation of exactly how your childhood made you ill and/or joyless, and how you can heal.

In brief, research regarding ACEs (Adverse Childhood Experiences) has been conducted since the 90’s by the CDC. But, as Jane Ellen Stevens (ACEsTooHigh) points out, this is not only “the first self-help book about ACEs, it’s the first book that explains what’s been called the unified science of human development in clear language for people who aren’t scientists or medical professionals.”

From Stevens’s interview with the author, who explains the “fingerprints” left by ACEs:

People who have experienced childhood adversity undergo an epigenetic shift in childhood, meaning that their stress-response genes are altered by those experiences, and that results in a high stress level for life. Stress promotes inflammation — when we understand that children who’ve faced Adverse Childhood Experiences marinate in toxic and inflammatory chemicals, then it makes sense how those experiences are tied to depression, autoimmune disease, heart disease, and cancer during adulthood.

How the Author’s Info Can Help

As told to Stevens:

  • You can find out your own ACE scores and if it feels safe, provide this info to your doctors, mental health providers, and families.
  • Learn that the effects of trauma aren’t easily separated into mental vs. physical health issues.
  • Adopt ways to improve your self-care, “including meditation, exercise, enough sleep, good nutrition, living in a safe environment, and having safe relationships.”
  • Find out how to “heal the brain and body on a biophysical level – approaches which include MBSR (mindfulness-based stress reduction), EMDR (eye movement desensitization and reprocessing) therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, hypnotherapy, writing to heal, neurofeedback, and many others.”
  • Know about women’s unique differences. “Women who suffered ACEs face twice the likelihood of developing autoimmune disease and depression in adulthood than do men. Often these are the very diseases that physicians find so hard to diagnose and treat, and this science may help to counter the medical community’s tendency to underserve women who suffer from difficult to define health problems such as fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, irritable bowel syndrome, chronic back pain, and autoimmune disorders.”

Your Own ACE Score

Once you’ve taken the brief ACE test, what does it mean? An excerpted explanation from ACEs Too High:

…Think of it as a cholesterol score for childhood toxic stress. You get one point for each type of trauma. The higher your ACE score, the higher your risk of health and social problems. (Of course, other types of trauma exist that could contribute to an ACE score, so it is conceivable that people could have ACE scores higher than 10; however, the ACE Study measured only 10 types.)

As your ACE score increases, so does the risk of disease, social and emotional problems. With an ACE score of 4 or more, things start getting serious. The likelihood of chronic pulmonary lung disease increases 390 percent; hepatitis, 240 percent; depression 460 percent; suicide, 1,220 percent.

Selected Reviews

Shannon Brownlee, MS: “Every few years a book comes along that changes the way we view ourselves, our society, and our place in the world. This is such a book. Compulsively readable and deeply moving, Childhood Disrupted contains surprising insights into the power of childhood experience on every page.”

Tara Brach, PhD: “..fully engages us with fascinating, clearly written science and moving stories from her own and others stuggles with life-changing illness. Childhood Disrupted offers a blend of fresh insight into the impact of trauma and invaluable guidance in turning toward healing!”

Ruth A. Lanius, MD, PhD: “In this stimulating book that eloquently describes the effects of one’s biography on mind, brain, and body, Nakazawa guides us through a step by step path to recovery. This work represents an invaluable source of hope and inspiration for anyone who is suffering from the aftermath of early adverse experience.”

3 thoughts on ““Childhood Disrupted”: ACEs and Your Physical Health

  1. Thank you for bringing more attention to the long term studies of “ACES”. I think this is so important for all of us to consider, as health care providers, as patients, and as human beings. I look forward to reading this book, as well as to deconstructing the idea that “mind’ and “body” are separate entities.

  2. What happens if your ACE is 9? and you tell doctors and they pass you off as being too mellow dramatic ? I’m read “The last best cure” and am currently reading “Childhood disrupted”, I feel as if I am doomed. I’m basically a ticking time bomb, waiting for things to go off. Things have already been happening. (Hypothyroid at 35, degenerative disc disease L5, S1, herniation in 2013, polyp removal in 2014, I have nodules on my thyroid that are being monitored, and this past Monday, I have to have another mammogram for something abnormal on my mammogram. I am only 48. I feel as if my life is over.

    • Can you tell any of your doctors about the ACE research so that they understand it better? Do you have a therapist or someone to help you work through the emotional effects of the trauma? Although nothing can be undone about your past trauma, knowing how the trauma continues to affect you on all levels can help you day to day. Your ACE score can’t predict what exactly is going to happen in your life, but your own thoughts and actions can help determine how things will go.

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