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From childhood, the people you interact with help shape who you become. Parents, aunts, cousins, and even family friends have influences on your personality, resiliency, and your relationships. However, if someone experiences childhood trauma, or adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), they may develop disorders that interfere with their ability to function in the world. 

Understanding Adverse Childhood Experiences

The world is still learning about the short- and long-term effects of trauma on children. However, trauma has become an overused word, as it can explain many different situations and things. For instance, trauma can be

  • Physical wounds from a car crash
  • Emotional damage from losing a loved one
  • Psychological damage from verbal abuse

The term ACE was developed to better explain traumatic experiences that occur from birth until 17, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Potentially traumatic experiences can include:

  • Parental neglect
  • Experiencing violence
  • Witnessing violence
  • A death in the family
  • Suicide of someone you know 
  • Surgery or intense medical treatments
  • Being exposed to substance abuse

However, it is important to remember that trauma is subjective, as are ACEs. There are, sadly, endless ways that a child can be exposed to ACEs. 

Outcomes of Adverse Childhood Experiences

Children who are exposed to ACEs experience increased risks of developing mental health disorders, substance use disorders (SUDs), and/or chronic health problems. They also experience an increased risk of developing a combination of disorders, such as a co-occurring disorder or dual diagnosis. SUDs commonly co-occur with mental health disorders and vice versa.

However, studies have found that when children who are resilient experience ACEs, they are more likely to have higher rates of school engagement. By instilling strength in a child, or teaching them how to bounce back from bad experiences, they can work through their internal stressors and react more appropriately. 

Risk Factors

Risk factors are situations, experiences, or people who increase the likelihood of someone else experiencing ACEs. Knowing risk factors can help individuals better prevent ACEs from affecting loved ones before they occur. 

Family members who struggle with mental health disorders or substance abuse can increase their loved one’s risk of experiencing an ACE. Additionally, parental, environmental, and individual factors can also contribute to increased risks. 

Parental Risk Factors

Parental risk factors for ACEs for a child include:

  • Challenges in caring for children, such as a child with a physical disability 
  • Chronic unemployment of parents/guardians 
  • Low income or food insecurity in the family
  • Low education 
  • A family’s use of physical punishment as discipline
  • A family’s acceptance of violence as appropriate behavior 
  • Inappropriate communication

Environmental Risk Factors

Additional environmental risk factors can include:

  • Living in a community with high rates of violence
  • Living in a high-poverty community
  • Unemployment rates
  • Unstable housing
  • Living in an area with no community activities or safe gathering spaces
  • Easy access to drugs and alcohol
  • Experiencing racism
  • Generational ACEs

Individual Risk Factors

Finally, there are individual risk factors that can determine if a child will age and develop ACEs. Since ACES are any adverse experiences in childhood they can include self-made experiences, such as choosing to steal an unneeded item from a store. 

Individual risk factors can include:

  • Being exposed to a parent with a mental or behavioral illness
  • Being exposed to substance abuse
  • Isolationist tendencies
  • Children who engage in sexual activities or dating early 
  • Being raised by someone with little understanding of children’s needs

You Can Heal From Adverse Childhood Experiences

Hearing that ACEs can cause physical health problems may sound scary and impossible to come back from. When faced with extreme stress, the body releases cortisol. With long exposure to cortisol, a person’s brain and associated cognitive abilities are impacted. High levels of cortisol are dangerous, as it’s known as toxic stress. However, don’t be discouraged, as healing from childhood experiences is completely possible. 

Trauma-Informed Care at Lighthouse Recovery

Just as you can heal from SUD, you can heal from adverse childhood experiences. Both are psychological disorders that affect the brain and body. Trauma-informed care – the act of providing health and healing services with the theory everyone experiences trauma – is a supportive way of helping someone process through their ACEs. With proper medication, education, care, and support, a person can process their trauma and heal. 

Every person requires unique and individualized treatment approaches for effective care. Trauma-informed care aims at providing that individual care. At Lighthouse Recovery Texas, we hold the same theory; all patients are unique and their care is not one-size-fits-all. With both substance use disorder (SUD) treatment and dual diagnosis treatment options, you can find help for multiple disorders. 

We offer several different options for those who could benefit from trauma-informed care. With tranquil sober living homes, small groups, and separate, specific programs directed at your needs, you can find support in multiple areas of your life. 

Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP)

PHPs are used to treat addiction, mental disorders, and dual diagnosis. We offer custom-designed curriculums through our PHP. With no more than 8 people in a group at a time, you can participate in this day program for highly structured and attentive care. If you need extra help, a PHP might be right for you.

Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP)

If you cannot step away from work, school, or other responsibilities for long hours a day, a Dallas intensive outpatient program is another option to consider. We understand that life is full of commitments and loved ones, which is why Lighthouse offers night groups for busier schedules. Our 12-week IOP program requires individuals to come in for one individual therapy session and three group sessions per week. 

Are you struggling with negative thoughts and memories? Do you find yourself abusing substances to escape your worries? It is rare to escape childhood unscathed. Proper care, with understanding, kindness, and clear goals, is necessary for you to heal from adverse childhood experiences and substance disorders. At Lighthouse Recovery, we offer many programs to target specific mental, substance, or dual-diagnosis disorders. We believe everyone is capable of healing, which is why we offer different treatment programs to meet people’s time constraints and treatment needs. Contact us at (214) 396-0259 to hear more about our program options. We look forward to helping you create the life you have always envisioned for yourself!