What we experience as children may dictate our health the rest of our lives according to study.
The Kaiser ACE (Adverse Childhood Experience) study has shown links between negative experiences and risky behaviour, psychological issues, serious illness, and even causes of death.
According to Michelle Shepard, MD, PhD and paediatrician at the University of Vermont Children’s Hospital, there are several forms of childhood abuse that can follow us into adulthood and impact our health later on in life.
- Abuse (physical, emotional and/or sexual)
- Neglect (physical and/or emotional)
- Intimate partner violence (witnessing violence towards a parent)
- Incarcerated parent
- Parents who are divorced or separated
- Substance abuse in the household
- Mental illness in the household
Studies suggest that the more of these you experience as a child the more likely you are to have chronic health problems like diabetes, heart disease and autoimmune diseases. Our ability to deal with stress is also compromised affecting our ability to recognise dangerous situations or regulate ourselves.
Having worked in mental health services for several years I’ve witnessed first hand how abused children turn into broken adults, but is there any way to reverse the damage once it’s done?
The answer is yes. Of course, the past can not be changed but there are ways to manage the consequences of negative childhood experiences.
Studies like this can be extremely frightening especially since most of us, myself included, have experienced at least one of these childhood experiences, like the break up of parental relationships.
Seeking professional help through counselling and other forms of therapy have been proven to significantly improve the lives of those suffering from childhood trauma.
But what about our physical health?
While it can be harder to reverse physical medical conditions, our mental health plays a huge role in how our bodies function and by looking after our mental well being we can improve our physical well being.
Often times when people experience traumatic events that can become addicted to substances to deal with their issues whether it be alcohol, cigarettes, drugs or even food. Eliminating these addictions will also go a long way in helping to pave out healthier futures.
If you are or someone you know feels like you may be dealing with any of these issues you can call Aware at 1800 80 48 48 or visit their website www.aware.ie for more advice.