In the community of foster care and adoption the term trauma is one that is used frequently, and for good reason. Trauma is the response to a deeply distressing or disturbing event that overwhelms an individual’s ability to cope. Obviously, in every case of children being removed from their biological family connection there is a certain level of trauma. And while each situation is as varied as each individuals ability to cope with the trauma, you don’t have to look far to see how it plays out in the attitudes, behaviors, and beliefs of those who experience it.
As we dive in to this subject it is vital to note that we all have different capacities when it comes to our abilities to cope with trauma. One persons life altering, traumatic event may not phase one persons ability to function while completely immobilizing another. The bottom line is that an event or experience is traumatic if it overwhelms an individual’s ability to cope. And when dealing with kids from hard places it’s important to realize that things that have no effect on us as adults could be extremely challenging for our children due to their current capacity to cope.
Scientific developments in the last decade including breakthroughs in identifying and treating PTSD have brought the conversation of trauma further in to the public conscious. Neurological evidence linking adverse behavioral patterns and associated brain activity continue to substantiate the need for focus on awareness, research, and treatments. Despite the milestones that have been reached there is still a substantial gap between general medical practice and a holistic approach that considers trauma as a potential contributor to adverse health conditions.
Have you ever visited a doctor and been asked about your childhood history? Have you ever filled out new patient paperwork and been asked questions pertaining to traumatic life events? Unfortunately this has never been the case for me…not once has a physician, of any kind, ever inquired about any traumatic life experiences. In my opinion this is a travesty and according to the Adverse Childhood Experiences Study (ACE Study) when physicians fail to inquire about adverse childhood experiences as well as those we encounter as adults they are over looking a critical piece of information that could not only save lives by offering preventive treatments but help people live healthier, more productive, meaningful lives.
If you are unfamiliar with the ACE Study it was the first large scale (over 17,000 participants) study to look at the relationship between adversity faced in childhood (things like abuse, neglect and household dysfunction) and health outcomes in adulthood. The study’s findings suggest that adverse childhood experiences are major risk factors for the leading causes of illness, disability and death as well as poor quality of life in the United States.
To some degree we’ve all had adverse childhood experiences. This week on the Mama’s Well Podcast we sit down with Pediatric Neurologist Dr. Jorina Elbers and discuss the impact of trauma on long term health and strategies we can all use to increase our ability to cope and move ourselves toward a healthier place.