What are ACEs?

Our past experiences don’t define us, but they can have a lasting impact.

Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) are stressful or potentially traumatic experiences that happen before the age of 18, like having a caregiver who struggles with mental health or substance use, witnessing domestic violence, or experiencing abuse or neglect.

ACEs can lead to toxic stress.

When we experience persistent and ongoing stressful or traumatic events, such as ACEs, our bodies can create a toxic stress response, meaning they create more stress hormones than they should.

This can affect our bodies’ and brains’ development as children, and our physical and mental health well into adulthood. A toxic stress response caused by ACEs, for example, can throw the body into a state of fight or flight, even in safe environments. This response, when activated over and over again, can take a toll on our bodies and minds.

Living with poverty, racism, family separation, and intergenerational or cultural trauma are also risk factors for toxic stress.

Watch this video to learn more about ACEs and toxic stress, and how we can heal from their effects.

Impacts across generations

ACEs are often intergenerational, meaning that the children of parents with ACEs can be at greater risk themselves. But the good news is we can do things to buffer their impacts, and heal so that we can do things differently, for ourselves and the next generation.

Are you affected by ACEs? Take this screener to learn more, begin your healing journey, and live beyond.