Examining the Impact of Childhood Trauma

May 17, 2017

Adverse Childhood Experiences—defined as any form of trauma or abuse which occurs in the lives of youngsters—can impact a person negatively well into adulthood and often times shadows their entire life. These traumas can be the result of intentional violence — such as child physical or sexual abuse, or domestic violence — or the result of a natural disaster, accidents, or war.  The outcomes are alarming and the effects can last decades.

“Experiencing any form of childhood trauma and abuse can impact an adult’s quality of life in fundamental ways,” says Psychology Today. “It can make basic day-to-day activities, such as eating, sleeping, working and study difficult. Trauma and abuse in childhood can also affect your mental health, physical health, and your relationships with the people around you.”

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) categorizes Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) into three groups: abuse, neglect, and family/household challenges.  The CDC says, “As the number of ACEs increases, so does the risk for the following:

  • Alcoholism and alcohol abuse
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
  • Depression
  • Fetal death
  • Health-related quality of life
  • Illicit drug use
  • Ischemic heart disease
  • Liver disease
  • Poor work performance
  • Financial stress
  • Risk for intimate partner violence
  • Multiple sexual partners
  • Sexually transmitted diseases
  • Smoking
  • Suicide attempts
  • Unintended pregnancies
  • Early initiation of smoking
  • Early initiation of sexual activity
  • Adolescent pregnancy
  • Risk for sexual violence
  • Poor academic achievement”

Suffering a trauma at an early age can damage the adult relationships that victims have with others. Because those who have had an Adverse Childhood Experience often have been betrayed by someone who was supposed to protect and nurture them, they often find it difficult to trust anyone who gets close to them. The Blue Knot Foundation, a not-for-profit organization helping victims of childhood trauma, explains the impact of ACEs this way: “When children are abused they come to believe the messages their abusers deliver, such as: ‘You are worthless’ and ‘You have no value’. Of course, these messages are not true, but children accept and internalize them. These messages become ingrained that, when a child who has been abused or traumatized grows up, the adult survivor will often experience feelings of low self-worth or poor self-confidence.”

Childhood trauma not only affects mental well-being, but it can also affect a person physically.. Adult survivors are at increased risk of a long list of illnesses, including cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, arthritis, and many more ailments. Blue Knot says, “They are more likely to smoke and drink more than other people in the community, and be less physically active.” Tragically, all of this means that many of those who have suffered ACEs die much too young. The CDC says that individuals with six or more ACEs died, on average, nearly 20 years earlier than those with no ACEs in their lives.

Healing and overcoming the effects of childhood trauma are possible. The Blue Knot Foundation says, “Research shows that with the right support, even severe early life trauma can be resolved. It also shows that when an adult has resolved their childhood trauma, it benefits their children or the children they may later have.” There are a number of treatments and therapies available to help trauma survivors. According to Blue Knot, “Replacing unhealthy coping mechanisms with healthy ones is challenging and doing so requires support (from trained and experienced counselors).”

If you are disabled because of childhood traumas which interfere with your ability to function and hold a job, you may be entitled to Social Security disability benefits. By working with the disability attorneys at Nash Disability Law, we can advocate for you and present the medical documentation to support your claim, giving you the best possible chance for success. Give us a call or email us through our website.