Donna had lost over 100 pounds two years ago but in the past six months she had put weight on again. Dr. Felitti was concerned. Donna was 53 and had debilitating diabetes. Here she was right back where she started. While he was rattling off questions, he misspoke and instead of asking “how old were you when you became sexually active, he asked “How much did you weigh when you first became sexually active?” She answered forty pounds. “It was when I was four years old with my father.”
Why write to you about such a research program on this law of success blog? Because over the years, what I have found is that subconscious beliefs and patterns get in the way of success. Here is documented research that shows almost a causal relationship between childhood abuse and severe health challenges. How might this affect success behaviors? So lets hear more.
Patty had gone from 408 pounds to 132 pounds in fifty-one weeks. What was so jaw dropping about these two people is that they dropped out of their weight loss program just as they were reaching their ideal weights. Patty had suddenly gained thirty eight pounds. Her explanation was that she was sleep-eating, waking up to pots and dishes that were dirty that she could not remember utilizing. Why now? was Dr. Felitii question. An older work colleague was hitting on her. “Patty had a lengthy history of incest at the hands of her grandfather starting when she was ten years old. This was when she had begun to struggle with her weight.” (Page 34).
After 186 patients, Dr. Felitti asked five other colleagues to screen their next hundred weight patients for a history of abuse. They all turned up the same results; obese patients had some history of abuse. It was this insight that led to a landmark research study by two physicians Dr. Vincent Felitti and Dr. Robert Anda called the “Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE). It’s purpose was to identify:
- The relationship between exposure to abuse and/or household dysfunction in childhood and adult health-risk behavior (alcoholism, smoking, severe obesity), and
- The relationship between exposure to abuse and/or household dysfunction in childhood and disease.
Between 1995 and 1997 these two doctors asked 26,000 Kaiser health-plan members in San Francisco to participate where adults were getting comprehensive medical evaluations that contained the information they were looking for. An astounding 17,421 of these Kaiser health-plan members agreed to participate by completing a questionnaire.
Based on the prevalence of adversities they had seen in the obesity program, the two doctors sorted their definitions of abuse, neglect, and household dysfunction into ten specific categories of ACE’s” (adverse childhood experiences(p. 36). They wanted to know the patient’s level of exposure before the age of 18.
- Emotional abuse
- Physical abuse
- Sexual abuse
- Physical neglect
- Emotional neglect
- Substance abuse in the household (e.g., living with an alcoholic or a person with a substance-abuse problem)
- Mental illness in the household (e.g. living with someone who suffered from depression or mental illness or who had attempted suicide)
- Mother treated violently
- Divorce or parental separation
- Criminal behavior in household (e.g., a household member going to prison. (p. 37)
Their findings from this huge group of people showed astonishing results.
- 67% of the their subjects had at least one category of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs, p, 37).
- 12.6 % had four or more categories of ACEs (adverse childhood experiences). (p. 37)
- Having an ACE score of two or more doubles someone’s likelihood of developing an auto immune disease. (P. 41)
- The higher a person’s ACEs (adverse childhood experience) score, the greater the risk to his or health.
- a) A person with four or more ACEs was twice as likely to develop heart disease and cancer.
- b) A person with four or more ACEs was three and a half times as likely to develop chronic obstructive pulmonary disease as a person with zero ACEs (adverse childhood experiences)(p. 41)
What was also mind-blowing was who this population was. It was conducted in solidly middle-class San Diego. 70% of the people answering this questionnaire were Caucasion and 70 % of the group were college educated, and these patients of Kaiser had great health care! These are not people you would expect to have childhood abuse. (p. 38)
If a person who answered these questions is exposed to adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) and avoids carefully smoking, drinking, physical inactivity, and obesity he or she can protect themselves from about 50 percent of the health risks. This is one of the most significant statistics of the study. No matter how clean they keep their health habits, they still have a 50 % increased health risk. These people are still much more likely to develop heart or liver disease. (p. 40) If that increase is that significant in heart disease, and diabetes, asthma or auto immune diseases which shows up in the body, imagine what this does to your self esteem, your confidence in yourself, and whether or not you are successful in your life.
Patty died at the age of 42 of pulmonary fibrosis, (an autoimmune disease). She put on weight and would lose it, eventually going through bariatric surgery. Patty didn’t smoke nor had she been exposed to known toxins like asbestos.
The author of this astonishing book called The Deepest Well, Healing the Long-Term Effects of Childhood Adversity is Nadine Burke Harris, M. D. This pediatrician was given her dream job of creating a clinic in San Francisco’s Bayview Hunter’s Point neighborhood areas where there had only been one pediatrician and to address the health disparities of the city. In this neighborhood the leading cause of death was violence. It was primarily an African American neighborhood, and she found that she was constantly trying to understand why her young patients had asthma, or were in the smallest growth percentile. But she didn’t find out about ACE’s until 2008. “Everyday I witnessed tiny patients dealing with overwhelming trauma and stress and as a human being I was brought to my knees. As a doctor I got off those knees and began asking questions.” She wrote this book. She believes that ACEs (adverse childhood experiences) are at the root of a public health crisis in America and is also at the root of a public education crisis as well. I have written on this blog about my health challenges, and thought of writing a book called “Wellness, no matter what!”
No matter where you live or what group of people you are a part of (Black, White, Immigrant, Native American, that there are bears that are populating the woods. Poverty, Violence, Divorce, Addiction, Parental Illness, Depression are just a few. This leads to toxic stress which hurts body, soul and beliefs in self. How do we heal this toxic stress which she found in her research in her clinic, that led to a higher risk for
- depression and anxiety
- autoimmune diseases
- food allergies
- cardiac disease
- chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
- reflux disease
- chronic bronchitis
- stomach ulcers
- learning problems (ADHD )
- stress management
- self regulation
In her Appendix she gives the 10 part question that allows you to figure out your Adverse Childhood Experiences Score. You can find out yourself what your own Adverse Childhood Score is by going to take the ACE QUIZ yourself at https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2015/03/02/387007941/take-the-ace-quiz-and-learn-what-it-does-and-doesnt-mean.
More needs to be written about this. But for some of you who have not felt successful, no matter how much you have gone for the American dream, or self initiated, I found Dr. Burke’s book very riveting. This work gives us a glimpse into why we have blocks to success, or may not be able to be the biggest self we wish to be, or why we forget, or why we have challenging relationships, or why we may not be able to mobilize ourselves into taking the steps forward necessary for the laws of success.