Behavioral Impacts of ACEs

A young person who has experienced trauma can exhibit a variety of behaviors. They might lash out in sudden anger or become increasingly moody and withdrawn. Perhaps they’ll find themselves in with a new group of friends or trade their bright and friendly disposition for the one you can no longer recognize.

ACEs research has taught us that chronic exposure to trauma can lead to unregulated doses of toxic stress, and while this natural stress response may be useful to someone who is coping with adversity, it may also be the origin of many observable issues.

Behavioral responses to toxic stress may include:

  • becoming startled or frightened easily
  • exaggerated reactions to daily events
  • angry outbursts
  • aggression or violence toward others
  • feelings of guilt or shame
  • depression
  • emotional numbness
  • aversion or a loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities
  • changes in sleeping or eating habits
  • alcohol or drug use
  • sexual promiscuity
  • self-harm or suicidal thoughts/tendencies
  • easily brought to tears
  • poor performance in school
  • symptoms consistent with ADHD

Not only are such responses likely to cause tension at home and in school, but as noted above, researchers have found a strong correlation between ACEs and one’s tendency to engage in risky behaviors. For example, a 1998 study by Vincent J. Felitti found that adults with an ACE score of 4 or higher were 2.2 times more likely to smoke, 7.4 times likely to consider themselves an alcoholic, and 4.7 times more likely to use illicit drugs.

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By employing a trauma-informed care approach, we enable our trauma treatments to be most successful. Idaho Youth Ranch helps kids and teens manage toxic stress, regulate their responses, make meaning of their experiences, and transform trauma to triumph. 

Learn more about how to get help today.