How Do You Score on an ACEs Survey?
May 24, 2023
By Alanna Hilbink
One tool regularly used in wellness treatment that is highly effective in assessing the amount of trauma we’ve experienced is the adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) survey. This survey doesn’t treat mental health and isn’t a substitute for a professional evaluation, but it can help you to understand your past and present risk factors, and what your next steps can be.
What Is the Adverse Childhood Experiences Survey?
You may be wondering, What is the adverse childhood experiences survey? The quick answer is, it’s a brief series of questions designed to help you understand the impact your past can have on your present. The adverse childhood experiences survey asks questions about 10 different traumatic childhood experiences that can affect your mental and physical well-being throughout your life. These questions cover childhood neglect, family history of mental illness or addiction, parents separating, a parent going to prison, and direct or observed emotional, sexual, and physical abuse.
What Does My ACE Survey Score Mean?
The more “yes” answers you have on the ACEs survey, the more likely you are to face certain mental and physical health challenges now and in the future. However you don’t have to answer yes to all, or even most of the questions to examine the role your past plays in your day-to-day life. Just having one yes can indicate past trauma you should explore through self-care, mindfulness, therapy, or more intensive deep healing treatment options like those found at Willow House at The Meadows.
What Should I Do with My ACE Survey Score?
Preventing ACEs could reduce the number of adults in America who struggle with depression by as much as 44%.
The first thing you should do if you’ve answered yes to any ACEs survey question is know that you are not alone. When you reach out for help, you’ll find a community of understanding, supportive professionals and peers. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that 61% of adults have experienced at least one ACE with 16% having four or more types of ACEs. And if you’re a woman or a minority, you’re even more likely to experience ACEs. Thankfully, you can find treatment programs and professionals who understand your unique place and perspective in life and provide you with customized, empathetic care.
The next step you should take is to understand the impact ACEs have on your life. Childhood experiences have a lasting effect on your mental health. The CDC explains that preventing ACEs could reduce the number of adults in America who struggle with depression by as much as 44%.
And because our mental health and physical health are so closely tied, ACEs can greatly impact our body’s wellness. Fewer ACEs or better treatment for them can reduce the likelihood of obesity, diabetes, asthma, cancer, and heart disease. ACEs also contribute to smoking, drinking, and drug use, increasing your likelihood of drug or alcohol abuse, all of which can have a powerful impact on your mental and physical well-being.
Your ACEs Score and Your Family
One of the greatest insights that can come from your ACE survey score is the knowledge of how past words and actions can affect multiple generations. One person with untreated mental health concerns puts the next generation at risk for the same.
Meadows Senior Fellow Tian Dayton describes in Emotional Sobriety: From Relationship Trauma to Resilience and Balance how trauma was never commonly talked about as a relational issue. “It was talked about as if it happened just within a person,” Dayton writes. “The trauma I was seeing in clients was the direct result of relationship pain, and that if it remained unresolved, it would continue to drive dysfunctional relationship patterns.”
Trauma can beget trauma. And if you don’t address it, it impacts both your life and relationships, and the lives of those around you.
When you find professional treatment for your past and any complications it has caused in your present, you put an end to the cycle of adverse childhood experiences. When you do not pass on your trauma, there becomes less grief in the world. And when partners, siblings, children, nieces, and nephews see you getting help, you reduce the stigma around mental health and show a better way to approach the things that happened in your life that were beyond your control.
So while negative childhood experiences certainly have lasting effects, NPR recommends considering the lasting effects of good experiences. Psychologists agree that ACE scores don’t tally the positive experiences of childhood that can help build resilience and protect you from trauma’s impact: “Having a grandparent who loves you, a teacher who understands and believes in you, or a trusted friend you can confide in may mitigate the long-term effects of early trauma.” You can find healing for yourself, and you can actively become a source of resilience for future generations.
How Do I End the Cycle of ACEs?
Taking the ACEs survey is a powerful first step in reducing the harmful consequences your childhood can have on your life. Answer honestly, and consider how your past impacts how you think, act, and feel in the present. And if that past is negatively influencing your well-being, speak up and reach out for help. Our caring professionals at Willow House at The Meadows can assist you in moving away from the past and toward a lighter, brighter future.