Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder—The Personal Side

About 15 years ago I read a fascinating article outlining how clinicians were doing research showing that people who experienced trauma were more likely to have physical problems/illness. Since reading that article so many years ago, the field of counseling has exploded with research illustrating how trauma impacts not only our emotional health, but our physical health as well. Enter the ACE (www.cdc.gov). ACE stands for Adverse Childhood Experiences and is a series of 10 questions often asked of clients by psychotherapists and doctors about common traumatic experiences that occur early in life. Higher numbers of ACEs often correlate to challenges in life including higher risk of emotional problems, physical illness and even substance abuse.

The CDC notes that preventing ACEs could reduce health problems. For example, “up to 1.9 million cases of heart disease and 21 million cases of depression could have been potentially avoided by preventing ACEs” (www.cdc.gov). What we have learned over the past 20+ years is that trauma impacts us emotionally and physically. And, the greater the trauma (think C-PTSD versus PTSD) the greater the likelihood for major emotional and physical dysfunction.

The good news is that since we now understand the correlation between trauma and overall health, we are better able to screen and diagnose people which means more targeted treatment and higher rates of healing. One caveat to note is that the ACE is not all-inclusive. It does not take into account many traumas that people currently experience such as living in a war-torn country or being a victim of human-trafficking. However, in my mind, the ACE is important because even though it should be more inclusive, it begins the conversation that takes a hard look at trauma and validates those who have suffered. We cannot begin to have compassion for others, moreover offer a pathway to healing, if we do not first understand the impact of what a person has gone through.

On a more uplifting note, I will also add that a high ACE score may be buffered by positive relational experiences in early childhood. Dr. Bruce Perry has done much research on this topic (you can find him on Wikipedia) and talks about how healthy relationships and interactions reduce the negative emotional impact of early, adverse experiences. If you would like to take or learn more about the ACE, please visit www.cdc.org . For now, if you need help due to trauma it would be our honor to serve you. We are trained to assist you in recovering from trauma so that you may experience peace and freedom. Please contact Life Enhancement Counseling Services today at 407-443-8862 to schedule an appointment with one of our experienced mental health counselors.


Yolanda Brailey