Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) are defined as traumatic events that a child may endure during their formative years, typically before the age of 18, which can significantly impact their physical and mental well-being well into adulthood. 

The ACEs of trauma were developed by Kaiser Permanente and the CDC in the mid-1990s, and have remained a popular evaluation for professionals, as well as individuals wondering if they have adverse childhood experiences.

These experiences may manifest in various forms, including but not limited to physical, emotional or sexual abuse, neglect or household dysfunction such as substance abuse, mental illness or divorce among family members. The effects of these experiences can be profound and enduring, potentially leading to a host of negative outcomes in terms of mental health, behavior and overall quality of life. It is therefore imperative to recognize the impact of ACEs on individuals and society as a whole in order to address and mitigate their potentially harmful effects.

Extensive research has been conducted to explore the association between Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and negative mental health outcomes in individuals who have experienced such trauma during their early years. Studies have consistently demonstrated a strong correlation between the number of ACEs a person has endured and the likelihood of developing mental health issues later in life, such as depression, anxiety disorders, PTSD and even substance abuse. 

This highlights the critical importance of understanding the link between childhood trauma and mental health difficulties, as well as the need for targeted interventions and support for those who have been impacted by ACEs. By recognizing and addressing these issues early on, it is possible to prevent or mitigate the long-term consequences of childhood trauma on mental well-being.

What are ACE scores?

ACE scores are a measure of the number of adverse childhood experiences an individual has had. The original ACE study identified 10 types of ACEs, and assigned a point for each experience. The higher the ACE score, the higher the risk for negative health outcomes. Your ACE score is a reflection of your stress risk associated with traumatic childhood events. ACE scores of 1-3 usually mean that a patient is at intermediate risk for toxic stress or other negative side effects of childhood trauma. An ACE score of 4 or higher means that the patient is at high-risk.

The 10 types of ACEs include:

  • Physical abuse
  • Emotional abuse
  • Sexual abuse
  • Physical neglect
  • Emotional neglect
  • Household substance abuse
  • Household mental illness
  • Parental separation or divorce
  • Incarcerated household member
  • Witnessing domestic violence

The link between ACE scores and mental health outcomes

Studies have shown that individuals with higher ACE scores are more likely to experience negative mental health outcomes, such as depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). This is because ACEs can disrupt the development of the brain and lead to changes in the body’s stress response system, making individuals more susceptible to mental health issues.

Behavioral health

ACEs can also have a significant impact on an individual’s behavioral health. Children who experience ACEs are more likely to engage in risky behaviors, such as substance abuse, smoking and early sexual activity. These behaviors can lead to further negative health outcomes, including addiction and chronic diseases.

Addressing ACEs and promoting mental health

It is essential to address ACEs and promote mental health in order to prevent negative outcomes and improve overall well-being. This can be done through various interventions, including therapy, support groups and community programs.


Therapy, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), can provide individuals with a safe and supportive environment to process and cope with their Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs). 

In addition to addressing the root causes of trauma, therapy can also help individuals address any resulting mental health issues that may have developed as a result of their ACEs. Research has shown that CBT, in particular, has proven to be effective in treating trauma and improving mental health outcomes for individuals who have experienced ACEs. 

By working with a therapist, individuals can learn coping strategies, develop healthy ways of thinking and behaving and ultimately work towards healing from their past experiences.

Support groups

Support groups play a crucial role in providing individuals who have experienced Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) with a valuable sense of belonging and understanding. 

By connecting with others who have gone through similar traumatic events, participants can feel less alone and more supported in their healing journey. In addition to emotional support, these groups can also offer practical coping strategies and valuable resources for managing their mental health effectively. 

Through sharing experiences, discussing challenges and learning from each other’s successes, individuals in support groups can gain a deeper understanding of themselves and develop healthy ways to cope with the lingering effects of their past traumas.

Community programs

Community programs, which encompass a wide range of initiatives such as mentoring and after-school programs, have been increasingly recognized for their ability to create a safe and supportive environment for children who have faced adverse childhood experiences (ACEs). 

These programs not only offer a place where children can feel secure and cared for, but also play a crucial role in helping them develop resilience and coping mechanisms to overcome the challenges they have encountered. 

By fostering a sense of belonging and providing opportunities for positive social interactions, community programs have the potential to significantly improve the mental health and well-being of children who have experienced ACEs.

Finding Help

If you or a loved one are struggling with processing adverse childhood experiences, or wonder what your ACE score might be and how it’s affecting your daily life, Old Vineyard offers several programs and services to help you manage your mental well-being. You can complete an online assessment, or call at 855-607-5920 to learn more about getting treatment.

Old Vineyard Behavioral Health Services

Old Vineyard Behavioral Health Services is a treatment center that provides compassionate inpatient and outpatient treatment to help those achieve meaningful mental health and wellness. We treat a variety of behavioral health disorders including trauma, depression, mood disorders and more.

Our team of dedicated staff pride themselves on creating a safe and welcoming environment for all of our patients and their loved ones. Some of our services include our treatment, specialty and outpatient programs. Located in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, we provide a beautiful, campus-like atmosphere.

To schedule a consultation with us or for more information, please call 855-602-5920.