Knowing Your ACE Score

Hello Dazzle! Thanks for coming and hanging out with me today, I’m glad that you are here. Today I want to talk about having a high ACE score. The fact is that as a child, I was a both a victim and victimizer. I have talked about this before and am rather open about it. But today I wanted to talk about the ACE score and the reasons that I think it is an important number that everyone should know.

The reason that I feel that it is important to talk about these things is because they continue to be a problem in our society. It is important to look closely at our lives and the lives of those around us with the effort of understanding how we are impacting the shape of society. If we want to see an end point to the violence that is raging across our country then we must begin by carefully exploring ourselves. How we act as individuals often seems unimportant and it often feels like it could never change the world. But that’s not true. Individuals along with their individual choices is what builds a society. If enough of us choose to change course, then society will change course.

A long standing principle in psychology is that violence is the largest risk factor for violence. What this means is that those individuals that experience violence are more likely to become violent people. Having Adverse Childhood Events (ACE) has a major life long impact on an individual. One of those impacts in an increased risk of becoming a victimizer. This is also often referred to as the Cycle of Violence.

Back in 1995 through 1997, the CDC-Kaiser Permanente adverse childhood experiences (ACE) study was conducted. It is one of the largest investigations that looks at how childhood abuse, neglect and household challenges impacts a person’s life long health and well-being. The results of this study are staggering. This study discovered a significant Relationship of Childhood Abuse and Household Dysfunction to Many of the Leading Causes of Death in Adults.

“The ACE Study revealed 6 main discoveries:

  1. ACEs are common…nearly two-thirds (64%) of adults have at least one.
  2. They are strongly correlated with adult onset of chronic disease, such as cancer and heart disease, as well as mental illness, violence and being a victim of violence.
  3. ACEs don’t occur alone….if you have one, there’s an 87% chance that you have two or more.
  4. The more ACEs you have, the greater the risk for chronic disease, mental illness, violence and being a victim of violence. People have an ACE score of 0 to 10. Each type of trauma counts as one, no matter how many times it occurs. You can think of an ACE score as a cholesterol score for childhood trauma. For example, people with an ACE score of 4 are twice as likely to be smokers and seven times more likely to be alcoholic. Having an ACE score of 4 increases the risk of emphysema or chronic bronchitis by nearly 400 percent, and suicide by 1200 percent. People with high ACE scores are more likely to be violent, to have more marriages, more broken bones, more drug prescriptions, more depression, and more autoimmune diseases. People with an ACE score of 6 or higher are at risk of their lifespan being shortened by 20 years.
  5. ACEs are responsible for a big chunk of workplace absenteeism, and for costs in health care, emergency response, mental health and criminal justice. So, the fifth finding from the ACE Study is that childhood adversity contributes to most of our major chronic health, mental health, economic health and social health issues.
  6. On a population level, it doesn’t matter which four ACEs a person has; the harmful consequences are the same. The brain cannot distinguish one type of toxic stress from another; it’s all toxic stress, with the same impact.” [1]

Having a high ACE score of 6 or more puts you at high risk for becoming a harmful person. These harms can be things that we do willfully or things that happen as a result of how we are coping with our ACE score. As a child, I was a victimizer and had a direct impact on the ACE scores of my peers. Those children that I bullied now carry an ACE score of at least 1 because of me. My trauma led to me engaging in behavior that was traumatic for others. This is how the Cycle of Violence works.

What’s the most important in all of this is the power that we hold. We can create real social change with the choices that we make as individuals. The work that we do to address our ACE score will directly impact the way that we engage with others and the way that we will impact their ACE score. Just because you have a high ACE score doesn’t mean that you will become harmful, but it is a major risk factor. And if you are being harmful, there is nothing stopping you from doing the work to change course.

The first step in this is knowing your ACE score. You can take the ACE Quiz online to find out your score. Positive Childhood Experiences (PCE) is also important and are considered to be protective factors that reduce your ACE score risk. Additionally, we can mitigate the risk factors associated with our ACE score by engaging in the Shadow Work and Trauma Work to heal from these experiences. Knowing your score empowers you to consider your risk factors which creates the opportunity for change.

Even having an ACE score of 1 increases your life long risks. As an example: Those with an ACE score of 0 have a 1% risk for suicide while those with an ACE score of 1-3 have a 10% risk for suicide. This is a significant increase compared to those that have a score of 0. Yet it is much less than those who have an ACE score of 7 or more who have a 20% risk for suicide. [3] This strongly implies that even a low ACE score can have an impact on our health and well being. Meaning that if you have a ACE score of 1 or more, you can improve your risk factors by engaging in the Shadow Work and Trauma Work to heal from these experiences.

This also means that we can greatly improve society by modifying our own behaviors. When we make the necessary changes to prevent causing others harm, we are reducing their ACE scores and improving our society. Each of us holds the power to change the world in the way that we treat those around us. Understanding the way that ACE scores effect individuals and societies can help us make better choices regarding the manner in which we treat each other. In the end, when we heal ourselves we are healing the community.

Well, that’s about it for my rambling today. Thanks for coming and spending some time with me. If you like what you read, click on that like button. It really does help! Until we talk again, you take care of yourselves!

Additional Reading and Resources

  1. PACEs Science 101
  2. Springfield, MO ACES Study
  3. ACEs & Trauma

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