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What are ACES?

Aug 15, 2023

If you experienced a form of childhood trauma, you might not be aware of how it directly and indirectly impacts your physical and mental health as an adult. Those traumatic or distressful chapters of your early life are known in the world of treatment as adverse childhood experiences. In this blog post, we’ll explain what defines “ACEs,” how they can result in widespread problems years later, and where to find help to restore your health and well-being.

Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) refer to unpleasant or stressful experiences that occur throughout youth, usually before a child turns 18. These events can have a long-term influence on a person’s physical, emotional, and psychological well-being. Experiencing physical abuse or neglect and witnessing domestic violence are common examples of ACEs. Exposure to ACEs can lead to an increased risk of health problems, mental health disorders, and substance use disorders. Hanley Center provides mental health treatment and age and gender-specific co-occurring disorder treatment for adults whose adverse childhood experiences have led to ongoing mental health issues.

If you or a loved one need help, call our admissions team today at 561-841-1033.

What Are ACEs?

The term Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) refers to incidents of trauma or distress that occur during a person’s formative years. The three main types of ACEs include abuse, neglect, and household dysfunction. Abuse may be physical, emotional, or sexual. Neglect may deprive a child of proper clothing, food, shelter, or emotional support and attention. Household dysfunction can include witnessing domestic violence between parents and living with a family member who has a substance use or mental health disorder. A professional assessment can determine what experiences left a lasting impact on you and evaluate how those experiences early in life shaped your ability to grow, function, adapt, and mature in the years that followed.

How Do ACEs Relate to Trauma?

ACEs are frequently associated with traumatic experiences or conditions, such as physical or sexual abuse, neglect, witnessing violence, or living in a dysfunctional environment. For a youngster, these occurrences can be extremely stressful, overpowering, and sometimes life-threatening. The events themselves can be painful, and the influence on a child’s well-being might result in trauma responses. Significant psychological and emotional distress can also affect a child’s feeling of safety, security, and trust, leading to fear, anxiety, grief, or rage. Trauma responses from physical or psychological harm may show up as hypervigilance, avoidance of triggers, flashbacks, emotional dysregulation, dissociation, and other symptoms. If the ACEs are prolonged and last for months or years, they could develop into Complex PTSD (C-PTSD) which can lead to feelings of a constant sense of threat, a distorted sense of self, and difficulty regulating emotions as the main symptoms.

Childhood Trauma’s Impact on Adulthood

ACEs can have serious and long-term consequences for a person’s physical, mental, and emotional well-being. They have been linked to an increased risk of a variety of negative outcomes, including mental health disorders (depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder), substance abuse and addiction, and physical health issues (cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and obesity). Social and relationship issues can develop out of ACEs. These adverse childhood experiences may affect cognitive development and academic performance. Youth who experience abuse, neglect, or dysfunctional households may also become involved in criminal activity, with girls facing an increased risk of teen pregnancy. As adults, they may struggle to finish college, stay employed, build a career, and maintain health insurance.

Getting Help for ACEs?

Experiencing ACEs does not guarantee lifelong consequences; resilience, supportive connections, and access to resources may all help to lessen the impact. Early intervention, trauma-informed care, and support systems can help a person overcome obstacles associated with childhood adversity and promote healthy development. If you know a young person who needs professional attention following adverse childhood experiences, connecting them with the right resources now will spare them years of struggling with the consequences of unmet mental health needs.

If you’re an adult with a history of ACEs and in need of support and strategies to make healthier choices, Hanley Center can help. Using a personalized treatment plan drawn from an assessment, the team at Hanley Center can help you understand how adverse experiences developed into harmful factors in your life. You can learn strategies to make healthy choices in response to the emotions connected to your past and address any substance use issues that grew out of those experiences when you were a kid. Co-occurring disorder treatment is available for anyone with a substance use disorder and depression, anxiety, trauma, or other mental health concern. Hanley Center also provides gender-specific programs to further customize care based on the common ground shared by women or men.


Hanley Center is a well-known care provider offering a range of treatment programs targeting the recovery from substance use, mental health issues, and beyond. Our primary mission is to provide a clear path to a life of healing and restoration. We offer renowned clinical care for mental illnesses and have the compassion and professional expertise to guide you toward lasting wellness. For information on our programs, call us today: 561-841-1033.

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