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Depression? Anxiety? Look at your ACES

January 30, 2017

You might ask why a trauma therapist is talking about anxiety and depression (and by the way, what are ACES, thank you very much??) For those who have been through some of the very obvious traumas (think combat, rape, etc..) you may not question how those experiences related to the lasting impact of depression and anxiety, but so many others experience adverse circumstances and don't put the connection together.


For instance:


I've worked with many people over my years in mental health but I'm going to tell you about three of them. For confidentiality's sake, we'll call them Kim, Bob, and Sue.


Kim remembers a time when her parents pulled weapons on each other and she was afraid that they were going to kill each other. She talks about it now with a laugh as if it's some great joke. They were so in love with each other, she said, but they fought all the time.


Sue remembers her father drunk constantly, throwing and breaking things when he was angry. He sometimes physically hurt Sue on accident while he was drunk. Sue tried to save her dad from his addiction and was told she didn't matter, only the drink did.


Bob once saw one parent try to kill his other parent. He doesn't like to talk about it.


What is the common thing between Kim, Bob, and Sue? Each one of them started our relationship with "I've never had any real trauma, or anything..." And they believed that. All three were coming in with depression and anxiety.


When people think of trauma, they don't keep these kinds of things in mind. That's where ACES come in. ACES stands for Adverse Childhood Experiences Scale and it's a measure of some of the daily things people witness or experience as a kid that they don't always think of when they think of "trauma."


Research shows us that a high ACES score (meaning, you've had several of these experiences in your life) is directly related to a number of challenges like regulating emotions (hello, depression and anxiety!), chronic disease, being violent or a victim of violence, heart disease, mental illness, and others.


A study conducted on ACES showed several really important things. Around 64% of people have had at least 1 ACE on the scale and if you have 1 ACE, you're 87% more likely to have another. These experiences are pretty common---you are not alone---and they commonly lead to depression and anxiety. I have a theory that perhaps that helps explain why depression and anxiety are the most common mental health diagnoses given. That's just a theory, though.


The great thing is that even though you may have had some of these adverse experiences and you may be seeing some of the effects listed as a result, you're not stuck. There are treatments that can help. EMDR is one (If you've been on this site you already know it's the one I'm passionate about). Reach out because that therapeutic connection can lead you down a path to get rid of the lingering effects of your past. With the help of a therapist you trust, you can get past your past and put depression and anxiety behind you.


If you want to check out your ACE score, you can do that here.


The information referenced above was found here.


Any questions? Feel free to reach out! Until then...




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