There are wounds
That never show on the body
That are deeper
And more hurtful
Than anything that bleeds.
-Laurrell K. Hamilton
The ACE test is something that many teenagers are unfamiliar with; The ACE test, also known as the Adverse Childhood Experience Test, is nothing like a typical test that you take at the doctor’s office. It is a 10-question, nationwide test that tallies up different types of abuse, neglect and other assets that contribute to a traumatic childhood experience. Many teenagers have never taken this test in their life due to the fact that they have not failed a regular depression screening at a normal physical or check-up. Many people are familiar with the paper attached to a clipboard that they are handed when they first make their way into a doctor’s exam room. Patients are told to answer a series of questions based off of their own emotions, that have answers such as “Sometimes” “Always” or “Never”. What patients do not know, is if they were to fail the depression screening (meaning they showed signs of depression) they would be asked to take an ACE test.
To break it down, the ACE test asks you a series of questions based off of whether or not you have been physically, sexually, mentally or emotionally abused before the age of 18. For every ‘yes’ a person answers, they would receive a higher score on a 10-point scale. If a person faced an extreme amount of abuse or neglect, their score would be closer to ten than it would be zero. The goal of the test is to score lower than a four; meaning someone was faced with little to no trauma in their adolescent years. But, that is not the case in many instances.
Although readers initially believe that this will only affect their mental health, studies have proven that the higher the score, the more likely a victim is to develop long-term health issues. For a person with an ACE score of four or higher, they are two and a half times more likely to develop chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, a lung disease that interferes with normal breathing, than someone with a score of less than four. They are also four and a half times more likely to develop depression and 12 times more likely to become suicidal. If a person has an ACE score of seven or more, they are three times more likely to develop lung cancer and three and a half times more like to develop ischemic heart disease, a condition that affects the supply of blood to the heart, the number one killer in the United States.
People tend to think the rougher the childhood the more likely a person is to make bad decisions. But, that is where the science comes in. When a person is abused or neglected under the age of 18, their developing brain is exposed to trauma and amygdala, the brain’s fear response center. The more adrenaline the body releases and the more times the amygdala center is activated, the more likely they are to develop health problems when they are older.
The Ted Talk, How Childhood Trauma Affects Health Across a Lifetime, explains it like this:
If a person were to be walking in the woods and they saw a bear, their heart would start to race and their adrenaline would kick in and they would be ready to fight. Those hormones are great for when a person is in the woods ready to face a bear; not so much when a person is waiting for an abuser to come home. Repeatedly, day after day, those hormones would circulate through a young person’s body, making it impossible for their brains to fully develop the correct way.
Fortunately, there are ways a person can overcome the traumatic experience they have been through. A person with an ACE score of 10 can go their whole lives without developing a single health issue; just as a person with an ACE score of five can develop every health issue discovered. The ACE test does not seal a person’s fate. It simply guides them to get the help that they need. Speaking up is always the right thing to do. Talking to a counselor, a trusted teacher, friend or therapist would be the best way to decided what the right course of treatment is for each particular case. Don’t be afraid, you are not alone.
Below is an attached link to the ACE test if you are curious to know what your score is.