Dr. Felitti’s Suggestions for High ACE Scorers

Like many people I’ve read all about the ACE study. I took the test and know my score (see online test at NPR for yours).

Frankly, the news for those with an ACE score of 6 or more is terrifying. It’s early mortality of ON AVERAGE 19 years. 

You aren’t blurry eyed or reading that wrong. It’s not weeks or months but YEARS.


Which is why I’ve been been obsessed with this topic for a while now.

I’m happy and healthy now, at midlife, I want to live a LONG life!

So, I’ve been carrying around this grim statistic and wondering,

What’s a high ACE-scoring adult to do? 

I Googled and researched and figured with such a big study, (over 17,000 people) done in the late 1990’s (you know, not last week), there must be some great antitodes, remedies, cures, treatments and plans to reduce that disgusting and alarming health prediction.

I haven’t found anything yet.

So my old reporter stuff was like…

“Wait, what does the guy himself who originated this study think?”

Dr. Felitti has talked to thousands and thousands and been thinking about this for a few decades. I need to know what he thinks.

So I wrote to ask him, the real and alive, Dr. Vincent Felitti and he graciously answered! 

I’m so glad I was a reporter once because I know there is always an answer even if it’s just not been found yet.

I’ll be honest and tell you that at first Dr. Felitti who must get a bazillion emails and calls gave me book and website suggestions.

Which was nice. And useful. I’m going to get the books he recommended below.

But in a polite as way as possible I said: You’ve got to do better than books and URL’s for people who will die 19 years early. It’s literally life and death. 

Right? Are you with me? I can’t be the first one who is asking, feeling or thinking this!

Plus, my friend Margaret and I were giving a talk at Mobius and I did not, in good conscience think I could tell people these facts without also sharing hope.

That seemed sort of mean.

He shared the two techniques that he believes are effective and relatively inexpensive over the long-term and so, while I’ve not used either one for developmental trauma, I’m sharing them all in (see below).

This isn’t stuff that needs to be a secret. File this under let’s help each other get and stay happy, healthy and alive.

Chidhood shouldn’t make adults fat, sick and give us early mortality. But, that’s what is happening now so we’ve got to stop waiting for parents or doctors to advocate for our protect us.

They didn’t.

We’re adults now. We can. We have to do what we can to protect ourselves and also others.

There are lots of us. Sure less than 15% have scores of 6 or more but, I’m sure no one wants childhood adversity limited life span by ANY amount and since 2/3 of all adults have at least a score of 1, this matters at least some to lots of people.

Or should.

So please share. And share your successes and what helps and what makes you healthiest as well!

Here are Dr. Vincent Felitti’s suggestions from our March 2015 correspondence.

  1. EMDR (Eye-Movement Desensitization & Reprocessing
  2. Ericksonian Hypnotherapy
  3. Websites: (Founder/Editor, Jane Ellen Stevens) www.acestoohigh.com & www.acesconnections
  4. Books
    1. The Body Keeps Score,Brain, Mind & Body in the Healing of Trauma, Bessel van der Kolk , MD.
    2. Scared Sick: The Role of Childhood Trauma in Adult Disease, Robin Karr-Morse
    3. Jane Ellen Stevens, forthcoming 2015


Dr. Felitti’s website:http://acestudy.org/

CDC site about the ACE Study:

NPR online ACE quiz.



Body Language review & Mobius talk.

Keep checking back on this site for more!


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  1. Elizabeth says

    Hello. My ACE score is 9. I’m a licensed professional counselor, clinical supervisor, artist, writer and ACE researcher. I followed a series of blog links on ACE research and resilience questions and found this website. It’s a brilliant concept and one that I began researching in graduate school with Dr. Priscilla Dass-Brailsford who studied resilience theory exclusively. The focus of her research had been on children from worn-torn countries, and then children who had grown up in abject poverty in the United States. In her course, what I learned was that there is no single way to predict a child’s resilience when it comes to surviving adversity. I called it the ‘x-factor’ in my papers, and still in my work with children and trauma (using my self and my siblings as reference guinea-pigs) I question what it is or was that predicts which child will thrive and which child will be sick from childhood trauma for the rest of their (possibly shortened) lives.
    I agree that the Resilience Questionnaire which accompanies the ACE test is triggering and subjective. If I am a child or adult who was abused in childhood, how am I to determine whether or not I was loved? Particularly for those of us who are in abusive adult relationships and haven’t yet learned or realized that abuse is not equated to love?
    What I have begun to recognize is that some children seem to have an innate emotional intelligence which steers them towards healthier choices and optimism. They seem to find their own ways to rise above their circumstances, but no one in particular seems to have to tell them to do this. Similar to the Marshmallow Test; these are the two-marshmallow kids regardless of their circumstances. Delaying gratification for individuals with a victim-mentality appears to be a difficult concept because the individual already feels deprived. I’ve worked with many recovering addicts who had abusive childhoods, and they’ve told me this, ‘why should I have to give up x, y or z when I didn’t get A, B, or C?’ Resilient kids and adults don’t think in those terms, or if they do, they’re able to see past the hurt-thinking to something more empowered.
    As for the practical kinds of things I have done to heal from my own abuse I would say a combination of a life-long faith practice, therapy, safe relationships with healthy friends and mentors, exercise and paying attention to my diet 99% of the time (Exercise is the greatest free medicine), meditation and mindfulness which I started at a very young age, volunteering, practicing gratitude and constantly reminding myself of what I have instead of what I think was missing or ‘bad’, recycling my challenges into gifts (asking myself what was good about each area of abuse, assault or pain-what did I learn etc, who can I help with that etc?), studying my experiences and turning it into a profession-that has given me a way to make meaning out of my experiences which I think is important for trauma survivors-to be able to say that what happened to me ended up helping someone else means that it wasn’t for nothing; my pain had a purpose to help someone else.
    I also spent time re-parenting myself and learning how to nurture myself. It’s taken me a very long time to learn how to do very basic things, like buy clothing that makes me feel comfortable in my own body. No one told me to do this or showed me how. I learned by working with adults in recovery and asking them how they felt in their bodies; it was through reflection and then a failed, abusive marriage that I actually learned to look at myself, or see myself. I think part of trauma-survival is the ability to stay detached and remain invisible, so when we finally do come back to our bodies…well, I was kind of a hot mess and no one had told me that I hadn’t brushed my hair in 20 years?
    One last tid-bit I’d highly recommend is not having children. I knew at very young age, as a parentified child, that I did not want to raise my own children. I think that has been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I spent my childhood raising my siblings and sometimes raising my parents. Then in college I started raising myself. I’m almost 40 now and feeling like I’m all done with raising kids…my inner kid, my parents inner-kids, my siblings…and now I’m enjoying being auntie! The only kids I still work with are the ones I’m paid to help. Boundaries!!! Learning boundaries makes my giant student loan debt worth it. So, dear abused kids: Don’t have babies till you’re sure you’ve raised your self.
    Thanks for letting me share. Hope it helps someone. in peace. -e

    • Cissy White says

      Little else is more important, in my book, than survivor to survivor sharing. We all learn so much and know so much and you shared so much of what you’ve learned, seen, experienced, felt, observed, gathered and noticed.
      THANK YOU!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I know it will help someone. I’m someone it helped!
      And a 9? I’m sorry for that amount of stress in childhood. I LOVE recycling challenges into gifts.
      I LOVE that!!!
      I’m giving a talk in Sept. to about 100 women who are human service workers and therapists. Would it be alright if I share (and quote) what you’ve written here or shared it as a guest post or both? It’s powerful.
      Please let me know. Thanks! Cissy

    • Cissy White says

      You just have so much insight and experience to share. I’m so glad you did so and so generously. REALLY! It’s great and practical advice you give and just reminds me of how much we have to share with one another. Of course, we’re not identical but lessons learned count for a whole lot in my book!!!!
      Also, thank you for sharing your work/insights and the name of Dr. Priscilla Dass-Brailsford because I don’t know a bit about her work but hope to learn more.

    • Julia Fox says

      Wow – advising people who survived childhood trauma whole scale to aboud procreating. Cop out. I made the opposite choice, though purposefully AFTER I had done a lot of recovery work. I know a lot of those high ACEes will opt out, but I still say it’s a cop out, and at the same time everyone’s personal choice to make. Think about how someone deliberately recovered would parent vs. someone who goes around saying ‘well it was good enough for me…’. Don’t forget about love!

    • Julia Fox says

      Wow – advising people who survived childhood trauma whole scale to avoid procreating. Cop out. I made the opposite choice, though purposefully AFTER I had done a lot of recovery work. I know a lot of those high ACEes will opt out, but I still say it’s a cop out, and at the same time everyone’s personal choice to make. Think about how someone deliberately recovered would parent vs. someone who goes around saying ‘well it was good enough for me…’. Don’t forget about love!

      • Hi Julia:
        I’m glad you added your own opinion and perspective. Love, as you say, matters a lot! We’re all about sharing our expertise and experiences here. We don’t all have to agree or choose the same path, approach, etc. I, like you, chose to parent after doing A LOT of recovery work but don’t think that is the only choice or path. Thanks for commenting. Cissy

    • Eliz,
      Thank you so much for what you wrote. My ADE score is 7 and I have had the worst time as an adult. I became an alcoholic but have been sober now for 16 years, I am 68 years of age and have lost over 1/2 my bowel, have breathing difficulties, heart disease, depression and I could go on and on. I spent years in therapy, have participate in breath work and other healing modalities but still can’t shake the effects of my childhood. I should never have had children as I made a mess of that, so I quite agree with what you said. I feel cheated that I had to wait 68 years to learn why I was so skewed up and still reaping the results of all this. You have given some good suggestions to use to help heal and I bless you for reaching out to others.

      Marilyn Laite

      • Hi Maryin, I sure would like to communicate with you…maybe we could figure this stuff out together. I find that the worst effect of having a very high ACE score is loneliness the lack of friends. How wants to be my friend when I’m always SO SAD all the time? Not me. Lol Diane

    • Michelle Nelson says

      This is a beautiful response…Cheers to you,And the next 40 yrs!May they be filled with much love,happiness,And laughter 😍

    • kristy conti says

      Oh my.

      “My ACE score is 9. I’m a licensed professional counselor, clinical supervisor, artist, writer and ACE researcher. ”

      This is the first comment I’ve ever read after recently discovered I’m over a 4.. I am a licensed associate counselor and well, person.. I have been terrified that confronting this and owning the label would stigmatize me as a professional.. needed to read this at this moment ♡

      • Hi Kristy:
        It’s a genuine worry that you’ve had, though in my book, it shouldn’t be that way. It’s too bad that people worry that this will be another stigmatizing label rather than info. we can use to arm ourselves with more info. and knowledge (and to prioritize our own health as well as to inspire advocacy). You are not alone! Cis

    • Adam Hayman says

      I scored a “perfect” 10 on my test, and have found frustratingly little information on high scores. Nearly all of the charts top out at 4, a handful hit 5, but pretty much nothing goes past that. Why is this the case? One of the coping mechanisms I did develop was to take the already low emotion state of my autistic nature and ramp that up to 11. This leads me to be a very data driven and curious person. As I seem to be somewhat an anomaly, I find a desire to figure out where I fit in the pattern. But there is no data describing high scoring individuals.

      The detailed analysis I read on 4s and 5s is pretty troubling, and implies that without massive amounts of lifelong, daily therapy anything approaching a normal life is implied to be nearly impossible. How am I supposed to interpret that? I have neither the time, nor the resources to spend hours a day in a psych office. Also, as I lead a mostly ok life, I defy the expectations. Granted I have many health issues, but they are mostly medical, not mental. I don’t know that counseling could do much to correct arthritis brought on by repeated physical trauma. I have a job, a home, a wife, and kids.

      • Hi Adam:
        I too wish the data was more clearly defined when it gets to four and above or six and above or 8 and above. Since it’s a dose response curve or response, I assume that the higher the more risks. However, I saw Laura Porter speak and she said something I think is super important. She said that the ACEs data is population level. It’s on large groups of people but it says nothing about how any one individual will do or does do. Do we high ACEs folks have more health risks? I think it’s fair to say yes. Does that mean we all meet some terrible fate and early death? I don’t think so. For me, I do think knowing I have higher risks helps me contextualize issues I’ve had (have) and also to prioritize my health more assertively (in medical settings and in my own practices).
        But you ask a really good question. A really/really good question. I’ll ask some of my ACEs data-driven friends to see if they can weigh in and get us some more data.
        Thanks for writing.

    • Mary Anich says

      Just joined the site…thanks so much for your in-depth share, Elizabeth…it will be one I return to time and again on this journey, and I will share it with my therapist…I, too, used my abuse history in helping my patients deal with their past pain while working as a psych RN and as a volunteer with homeless women and children…it’s the only time I could put meaning to the madness that was my childhood…take care, Mary…

    • Hello Elizabeth. I also have an ACE score of 9. And I had children, at the age of 22 and 24. I discovered at 28 that my oldest son was severely disabled – an unknown genetic defect and I was the carrier. It nearly destroyed me – and then it saved me. It forced me to get the help I needed, because he needed me. They both needed me. I now have grandchildren – and a wonderful life. It has been a long, difficult journey. But I truly do not think I would be here without them.

    • Carmen Abner says

      Thank you Elizabeth. I’m a 7, over achiever, social anxiety. I’ve worked through the process of deconstructing my own psyche since the age of 12 and at 55 I can now say I own myself and understand that while my stories are mine, they are not ME. I also decided at an early age that I would not have children and have never regretted the decision. I have many “children” who look to me for guidance in their own journey and I am glad that I have gained the tools and healthy coping mechanisms to often point them in the direction that leads to their own personal healing. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Garrick Fay says

    I am interested in receiving information on a cure for adults who receive a high ACE score.

    • Cissy White says

      Have you read Donna Jackson Nazakawa’s book Childhood Disrupted? There are lots of approaches explored. I too am trying to find information about how to improve health and reduce risks for those of us with high ACE scores. However, there’s no single path or approach that I’m aware of.
      Also, the best resources online that I know of are http://www.acestoohigh.com and http://www.acesconnections.com

  3. Jane putnam says

    I have a score of 10, I’m just learning about ACE’s and have a life story that makes people shudder, then say, “but you’re so normal”. Im looking for help. Both my parents died before 65, multiple issues, but a heart annueurism got my dad, liver disease my mom. About ten years ago, my entire body started giving out on me, I have 15 co-morbid conditions-the most troublesome, neuropathic. Nerve pain in several areas (one pelvic-pudendal neuralgia-it’s hot, shock like pain in genitals) CRPS, arthritis, migraines, epilepsy.
    I do have 3 children who thankfully had a dad, mom that love each other, strong faith, no abuse, no drugs/alcohol…but I have been sick & I do suffer bouts of depression before my illnesses hit full force, once I’m real sick-I usually have some seizures…and it’s like I go into shock. I know my kids sensed something was wrong & that affected them, maybe ACE score of 1. I just feel tons of guilt for even that!
    I would love, love to be dead-felt that all my life. Prozac started at age 21 kept me from suicide, but not happy. I was always in foster care, some foster care was as weird as my own home. At 16 I was emancipated.

    I’m in the middle of fighting a horrible depression spike, wanting to just die and unburden my family. In a way ACEs helped that-how could I possibly add another # to my kids’ score, but do I make it worse staying alive.
    Are there treatment centers, a series of workbooks, a curriculum a “10” could use. I have great insurance, but they are just trying to keep me alive. I was hospitalized 7 times these past 2 months. I am DESPERATE for help.
    My pains started right before I was to start my PHd, I have always been an extreme person. Went to college most semesters after soph year I took 21/22 units and maintained a 4.00 avg. This is contrast to my childhood, if we lived somewhere for a school year good grades, if we moved multiple times? I either was passed to pass or would be threatened to flunk because of absences…my mom, would just move again. I never graduated high school, but went to 14 schools before dropping out.
    Sorry if this is discombobulated, learning all this is shocking for a person who made herself believe her childhood wasn’t that bad. I am just looking for help. I need the answer to the equation. Thank you

  4. Ace score 7. Despite my expecting it to be high I was disappointed to see that. I have been in therapy with an amazing lcsw for about 2 years now. I am moving at a snails pace, but did my first emdr session with him today, and during it thought…this ain’t so bad. Managed to get through my day just fine, until a brand new appliance broke, and I had a compete meltdown. Sometimes it feels like it’s itching more than a puerile dream to think I could react and function like a “normal person” I am a survivor of physical and sexual abuse by females, and so have been advocating awareness on this issue for some time. I was met with anger by s verbal Womens’s groups which was a surprise to me in the beginning. I am an actress and writer and am working on a future documentary about my experience, as well as the ever growing societal denial on sex abuse and its effects. Thank you for prodding a platform for people to vent. My best to everyone!

    • Sorry for all the typos *cringe

    • Thank you for sharing your experiences. I am sorry it’s such a slow process. I know no one, not one person who has found healing quick, easy or fast. Maybe it’s possible but I’ve not heard much about that. However, inching along IS something. And advocacy matters as well for general healing of our whole culture and one another. BTW: I too have experienced sexual abuse, same sex, as well as opposite sex (strange terms). There’s some shame and stigma and silencing about same sex abuse, or understanding that men get abused too and women can be abusers. I admit that I also, for a long time, underestimated the number of men who have been abused. I’m glad we are all becoming more aware. I’m glad you are here. Cissy

  5. Thank you very much for your site, this is exactly what I have been looking for; deeply appreciate all your comments. ACE score 9. Tried to go back and re-evaluate and knock a few categories out, but it’s a 9. (I know it’s not comparative, but was thinking, there must be some people who suffered more. I have loved and am best friends with a handful of them). Such care for everyone who has shared. You could say I had high resilience but I am certain it was not so much an innate quality as being enrolled in an intensive music and dance program from age 5 that was just like a family. I received literally thousands of hours of strong and consistent support from this program for 17 years. I also clung to school like a desperate person and ‘excelled’ wildly, at least on paper. Took the same life-or-death approach to work and surprise, surprise, I ‘excelled.’ People lauded my ‘professional work ethic’ and said I was a tough as a bulldog, the most persistent person they had ever worked with. Same, people who get to hear my story all say the same thing–it’s a miracle you are so grounded considering what you went through as a child. But every single mentor and intimate relationship partner also said the same thing–that I take life too seriously, that I am too highly strung, that I need to breathe. No matter what the obstacle, I would just put my game face on and plow through it–but at serious detriment to my health. At one stage I was seriously anxious about a sales job I hadn’t trained for or wanted, and felt nauseated every day for 6 months approaching work, and got sick every single month for a year. In the next job, I would literally work until I passed out at my desk from not sleeping or eating. Yet I plowed through, because it’s like I lived behind my head–detatched and dissociated. There was a giant lid over the anxiety in my heart, but that anxiety was still there and much more visible than I realized. To me, it’s like I had been holding my breath for 25 years. Got into one relationship that was a very unsuitable power dynamic, ultimately good it ended. Got into another relationship that was much more loving but we both had high ACE scores and just kept triggering each other over and over, despite the deep connection, and sadly this also ended. There has been growth with every step though. In addition to counselling, I speak with a meditation coach weekly and do practices every day and after a year I have seen marked improvement.

    • Oh S:
      It sounds like you have worked SO HARD, as a child and as an adult and have a deep understanding and compassion for yourself and others and have had some wonderful and supportive experiences and relationships as well as all of the ACEs. I think a lot of us try to consider some answers and see if there’s any way we can answer “yes” in hopes of a lower score. And I am hopeful that the work we do (or maybe the relaxing we do trying to DO LESS work) can improve our health and our relationships as we learn not to hold so much breath. Thanks for writing. Cis

  6. The experience of S resonated with me. Particularly the part about being in a relationship with another high scoring person wherein they “just kept triggering each other over and over, despite the deep connection”. My wife and I are both 8’s and have this same issue. Paradoxically, it takes someone with a similar lived experience to understand why I am the way I am, but the constant, mutual triggering that comes with such a pairing makes me wonder if it’s healthy for either of us. We’re so quick to become defensive and build walls. Anyone know of anything that addresses this issue? We’re in couples counseling that is not really “trauma informed” and I’m not even sure that such a thing exists, but if there is I’d sure like to learn of it.

    • RD:
      I think you raise a good question. I’m sure there are lots of us who are in relationships with other with similar reactivity and triggering and it’s hard. It’s not from a lack of love that things can get complicated or painful and how to work through that? IT WOULD BE A GREAT resource! Please comment, anyone, if you know of anything. I’m sure there are times we can relate to friends and lovers and partners with similar scores and other times where that’s just so hard. Thanks for sharing. If you write more on this topic I’d love to read it. Cissy

  7. I have a ACE score of 5. I know its not high and I have learned to function with my disfunctions. In fact I’m the over-functioner. I am a caregiver in my profession and am usuallly the one in my current family that takes care of others. But since my mother’s death and now my dad in nursing care with dementia, I have had to confront my past. Have you heard of adults learning how to overcome their childhood trauma only to have it come back to haunt them in later years? I am a nurse and a chaplain and have done a lot of therapy including EMDR multiple times. I thought I was past all this. But when I was caring for my dad after my mom’s death, running on lack of sleep from being up with him all night, I had vivid memories of his abuse. It rocked me too my core. That was a year ago. My resiliency built up over years of work has crumbled. Have you ever heard of this? My husband, in multiple 12 step groups thinks I’m just an angry bitch most days. My anxiety over feeling safe and together depleted. I keep it together for work, but i get home and then my anxiety goes into overdrive over trying to take care of my family. I know my score is not high so maybe I’m making a mountain out of a mole hill. Right now I just feel very alone in this whole thing.

    • Hi Amy:
      Any trauma is traumatic and 5 ACEs is actually a lot. I have heard A LOT of people who feel the reserves/strength/coping and resiliency get shot by life circumstances, by new trauma or stress, by illness, etc. It’s hard. I’m sorry you feel alone. I know it can be hard to feel safe and sometimes our lives aren’t safe and that makes it harder. There’s lots of great info. about ACEs and I recommend childhood disrupted if you want to learn more. It’s by Donna Jackson Nakazawa.

  8. The ACE test does not address the mother inflicting emotional and physical abuse nor physical and emotional abuse caused by siblings. Other points to consider are a father who does not stand up to the mother who is the abuser and the mother who cautions the child to keep quiet about occurrences in the home due to family loyalty. Experiencing constant yelling by the mother from morning to night at every holiday caused these days to be sad.

    • Chris:
      You are correct that the original wording about domestic violence only asked about the mother or step-father being the victim. But abuse, neglect and household dysfunction do relate to family members (including mother) and siblings. Though I know, for sexual abuse, there’s an age difference not all agree with. It’s not a perfect test but it does provide a lot of evidence about the impact of toxic/traumatic stress but not all is covered. Other facts, like adverse community experiences (violence in neighborhood, racism, sexism and all the things that make people less safe) are also important.

  9. Carol Khol says

    We adopted our son at 15 and he’s either a 9 or 10. He is now 38 and still struggles with normal life, but he certainly could be worse! I have seen people helped a lot by prayer. Check out this site. We have literally seen miracles.

  10. Ace score of 10.

    I knew from my earliest memories that the world I was growing up in was wrong. I knew that I had to take care of myself, raise myself, try to not let the harmful environment win.

    I’m not sure where that knowledge came from. All of the children I grew up with, who were in likewise poor and traumatic situations, seemed to just capitulate, as if they had never even been aware there were other options.

    I think 2 things made all the difference for me. 1) Intellect – I had the ability to rapidly absorb and process new information. I was entered into the gifted program in grade 3, and I stayed in it through college graduation. 2) My middle school gifted teacher took an interest in my personal life and became an anchoring mentor – someone calm and sane out in the “real” world who cared about me during my formative years.

    My father (who never married my mom) died when I was 4. My mother was a co-dependent bipolar drug-addict who moved us from one abusive guy to the next until marrying the one who hated me the most. I ran away multiple times, usually after watching her being beaten or held down and choked and feeling powerless and guilty about doing nothing. The cops treated me like *I* was a criminal for running away.

    When we finally left him for good, we lived out of our van and stayed on friends’ couches in the trailer park I had grown up in. One morning, my mother and the van were just gone. I found out much later that the van had been impounded after a traffic stop, and my mom imprisoned on drug possession charges. But I thought she was dead for the better part of a year. I went into foster care and lived with one abusive, controlling family after another. All told, I moved over 30 times before I left for college.

    Senior year, when I realized I was going to miss out on being Valedictorian, I had a nervous breakdown. After that, I did some major reckoning with myself. I realized I placed too much of my self-esteem on my ability to maintain high grades. I realized that this was just one insidious was that the trauma was starting to win – it had made me one-dimensional. I was serious – very serious. And I was smart. And that was my entire personality – serious and smart. I decided I would use my time in college to become more well-rounded.

    My 20’s were spent trying to make up for all the lost time in my cognitive and social development. I pushed myself out of my defensively introverted and scholarly comfort zones – I began to drink socially (but cautiously, fearing I had an addict gene somewhere), let my grades slip to a “normal” level, tried to learn what friendships were (mostly failed), tried to learn how to be in a healthy, loving relationship (mostly failed), and finally – started reading self help books that dealt with childhood trauma, cognitive neuroscience, psychology, interpersonal relationships, meditation, placebo effect, addiction, anything and everything that could offer insight into my own blind spots.

    I found “The Body Keeps the Score,” and felt like it answered so many questions I didn’t even realize I’d had. I’ve since realized that I have c-PTSD, and that has helped immensely. I have also read “The Power of Vulnerability,” which is earth shattering for us fearful and defensive trauma survivors. I highly encourage any other High ACE’s who are reading this comment to read “The Power of Vulnerability.”

    Two other books I found helpful for my interpersonal development and for breaking my co-dependent/avoidant behavioral habits: “The Human Magnet Syndrome” and “The Science of Attachment.” I made it my goal to learn to identify the markers of narcissistic/user personalities, and to evolve toward a secure attachment style.

    The two last things I attribute a lot of my recovery to are exercise and meditation. I started going to the gym regularly and lifting weights in my early 20’s – you can start at any age. It can take a month or so to feel the benefits, but they are more than worth the effort, and once you crest the hill it actually becomes easier and easier as the benefits multiply over and over again. Meditation came naturally to me, through all the years of counseling myself and calming my panic attacks, and reasoning myself away from shame. Meditation gives mental AND spiritual comfort. It is a balm like nothing else I can imagine. To find a place within yourself from which you can draw and multiply peace and gratitude is amazing – it taught me how to self-love.

    I read the disagreements above regarding whether or not we High ACE’s should be having children. I can understand both view points. I never felt ready or able to have and raise children until I felt “whole.” And until I felt whole, I didn’t know that I EVER would. All I knew for most of my life was that I was broken. I felt like all my energy for the entirety of my life would NEED to be plowed right back into myself, to keep me going through all the pain and fatigue and constant illness. As much as I wanted children, I didn’t see any way I could voluntarily put myself into a situation where self-care could no longer be my sole concern. I was my own child. I was still growing up. I still needed all of me focused on me.

    Had I never grown past that point, no, I wouldn’t have had children, and I don’t necessarily think anyone in that state should have children. But I did evolve past that point. I recovered some suppressed memories – that combined with all the work I had done on myself, led to a kind of rebirth. I no longer felt like I needed all of me to myself. Life felt a little bit easier. I felt a little less alien.

    Today I am 32. I have felt whole for 4 years now. I’m finally in a stable career. I’m finally in an equal, loving, healthy relationship (with someone who probably doesn’t even have 1 ACE.) And yes, I very much feel up to the challenge of having and raising children. Despite my ACE score. Because my ACE score doesn’t define me. My childhood is not who I am. How I’ve responded to my childhood is who I am.

    For most of my life, I was sickly. I had headaches constantly in my late teen’s and 20’s. I developed allergies out of nowhere. I had adult cystic acne. I had painful bladder syndrome. I had a minimum of 4-5 colds per year, and they usually lasted at least 2 weeks, and most turned into sinus infection. My body refused to take care of the run of the mill problems other people’s bodies seemed to take care of.

    Now, 4 years on from my recovered memories and my sense of rebirth, I still have lingering allergy symptoms, but everything else has disappeared. My face has cleared up. In the past, when I felt a bump forming on my face, I knew to expect it to be around for at least a week or two. My immune system would just look the other way. Like other people now, I can feel a bump coming up at night before going to sleep, and in the morning it will be gone. My body seems to have figured out how to handle its business. I no longer get headaches. I now get a more typical 1-2 colds per year, and they only hang out about 3-5 days, and never turn into sinus infections. My bladder pain has disappeared.

    I don’t know what I’m doing other than meditating, getting physical exercise, and cultivating gratitude and self-love. I’d like to think and hope that anyone could lay claim to an improved immune system and reduced inflammation if they just did these things, but I know we all face different challenges. All I can do is share what has worked for me.

    Cissy, thank you so much for the work you’ve done, and for this website and all the other resources you’ve shared.

    • Oh Summer:
      This is a powerful and a beautiful post. Might you consider sharing it as an essay? It’s powerful. In any event, I appreciate your perspective and you sharing your AMAZING journey. You went through so much as a child and what a life you’ve created for yourself. It’s astounding. I hope you FEEL that and know that! Thanks for the mention of the books as well. I don’t know all of them. THANK YOU! Others might benefit as well. I really appreciate ALL you shared. And oh, your poor younger self who had so much pressure on you. Like you, I had a really hard time in my early 20’s. I was trying to graduate college in 2 and 1/2 years to 1)graduate before my grandmother passed and 2)save money. I did not and despaired (and other things were happening as well). It was such a NOT FUN time of life at a time it seemed many were having a blast. Plus, it became SO evident that living through childhood wasn’t going to be all that was needed.
      Thanks for sharing what you have shared. I really appreciated it more than I can say and I hope you consider sharing more widely on your own blog (let me know if you have a link) or on ACEs Connection (if you feel comfortable or inclined).
      Thanks for sharing your journey and I SO AGREE that abuse isn’t your story and that how you live is YOU and YOUR story.

    • Wow. Thank you for sharing your powerful journey. It has give me such hope that with persistence and belief in ones self healing can take . You made me realize I am not my high ACE score and that it doesn’t define me. I am my own creation.

      With Gratitude


    • Thank YOU…you’re awesome and I get it.

    • What a journey, your transparency speaks volumes…my spirit soaked it up and is being set free daily…so glad I was BLESSED to find this website.They say “NOTHING in GOD’S world happens by MISTAKE “, I KNOW this website was ment for me and my SON to grow and understand that we can and do RECOVER if we work for it.

    • Wow – thank you for sharing. I’ve been looking for someone – ANYONE with a score as high as mine. Your experience resonates deeply with me. I think I will save my own sharing for a separate comment. You are strong and powerful to make it though so much and find wholeness.

    • Thank you so much for sharing! Your story resonates deeply with me in multiples ways. I’ve been looking to find people that have very high ACE scores. Mine is a 10 also. Good on you for finding wholeness with such a high score.

  11. Hi Everyone,

    (Aces score: 8) – I just wanted to note that sensorimotor psychotherapy has been remarkably effective for me. Here’s a link to their website: https://www.sensorimotorpsychotherapy.org/index.html.

    Take care,


  12. Ace score of 8.
    Well to sum up my life, I have a black belt in the school of life (BBSL). My mother died when I was 6 and I was a prisoner of war living with my father. By the time I was 12 I had my first attempted suicide. My older brother attempted suicide as well before 18. At Xmas time when Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer played, I knew I belonged in the land of misfit toys. Misfits and not wanted or loved. Over the years I have experienced every form of abuse as a child, raped several times as an adult, family violence shelter, divorced, in car accidents, had fibroid tumors. Had difficulty keeping full time jobs. I have lived with severe depression/anxiety all my life. I had a beautiful son who also had depression and anxiety. In Dec. 2015 he hung himself. I have had a total of 5 attempted suicides so far. But now things are changing. While writing my own book “Shattered, Scattered, Reinvented! How to recover from abuse, rape, injury, illness, divorce, loss or suffering–A Journey to Love, Hope and Healing” which became a #1 Best Seller—I was also beginning to read “The Body Keeps the Score” which blew things open for me. It helped me understand when so many people would tell me to “just get over it” or “just let it go” I had so much trouble. I better understood why I was a “misfit” and with and ACE score of 8 it even better explains why. I have since done a combination of EMDR, ART, and Brainspotting with HUGE results that I put in my book. I speak and have written my book for all those who are suffering and are unable to speak for whatever reason. I speak for people like my son who are hurting so much to have a voice, that we are heard so we can get the help we need. I refuse to be silent about mental illness, suicide or PTSD or any trauma. I refuse to hide in shame because my son who had a ACE score of 4 or 5—depression/anxiety, choose to hang himself. I bring a bright light of love, hope and healing to those who are suffering.

    • Davina:
      SO much heartbreak and pain and so much hope and fight. Thank you for sharing what’s helped with grief, pain, ACEs, and traumas of so many kinds. Feel free to share the link to your book for others who want to find more. Warmly, Cissy

  13. Wow. I appreciate the comments that all have posted on this forum. I just heard about ACE by clicking on a conference notice posted on Facebook by my sister-in-law. I took the quiz and I am a 6. It is helpful to hear stories of other people who suffered (and still suffering) more than me. My earliest childhood memories are of having zero self-confidence and being terrified of men. My mother made me take piano lessons, but my stage fright was so bad I would freeze and not be able to finish my piece. I got picked on in school for how I was dressed. I was terrified of gym class and people seeing the strange contraptions my father made me wear instead of the normal bras other girls had. Then, later, in my tween and teen years, I recall being sexually abused by my father. In addition, I was all but raped by a male babysitter, a guy who was employed by my father. I was 9 at the time. I didn’t tell anyone because I feared my parents. They were physically abusive enough that I was terrified of anything that would make them think I had misbehaved in any way. I attempted suicide by taking all the pills in the medicine cabinet that I could swallow. But it was a rather pathetic attempt by a kid with no idea how to do it and I didn’t get the job done. Other than punishing me for throwing up in my room, my parents didn’t even notice. My parents decided to join the Mormon church and forced me to join too, when I was 12. Then their whole priority in life was what the people in the church thought of them. One night when we were home alone, my sister put a knife to my throat and threatened and taunted me. She always got what she wanted and I was required by my parents to let her have anything of mine that she wanted. I feared for my life and managed to escape her and run to the neighbors. When they found out I went to the neighbors, my parents beat the crap out of me. That same sister later reported my father for sexually abusing her and her daughter, and I refused to give the police any information about my own abuse. I did not know it at the time, but they had found suggestive photos of me as a child in my parents’ house. I couldn’t bear the humiliation of it all. And my mother stood by and let him do all of it. She only cared what other people thought of us. But she didn’t care enough to dress me well or bring me up or come to concerts or anything I participated in. I wasn’t raised, I just merely survived. My mother demanded gratitude for everything, including the meager pickings of food she provided. I don’t think we were THAT poor- there was enough money for the weird underwear my father bought me. I had a conversation a few years ago with my father’s two sisters who told me he was abusive to them when they were teens. One thing he did was tell one of his friends that his sister wanted to have sex with the friend, and my father would get her to do it, but he wanted to watch. They tried it, but she broke noses and got away. Then it became clear why the babysitter did what he did to me. And why a couple of other men pretty much date raped me. My father told them I was really into them and I protested only because I wanted to come across as a “good” girl. I am 59 years old and both my parents are dead now. I broke it off with them when my daughter was 2 and I had finally let it sink in what kind of people they were and what they had done to me. I can’t stomach the Mormon church, even though I know none of this is their fault. It was just that my mother cared about it more than me and she let my father do what he did to me and the rest of us. I have 2 sisters and 2 brothers. I have had a pretty good career, but wonder what I could have done with support, encouragement and confidence instead of wasting my energy to hide depression, anger, shame and humiliation. My own two children have been raised to understand that they are absolutely the most important things to their dad and I. They have had our support in everything they did. I am thankful that my husband is the kind of person and parent that he is. But he deserves better out of me and I deserve better for myself. I am still dragging around my ACE. Thanks for listening. I think I am getting the courage to figure out where to go from here.

    • Margaret:
      I am sorry for all you have been through. It sounds like you have accomplished so much and have protected your own children. That’s no small thing. I think it’s totally normal to wonder what might have been, had there been more support and nurturing and less trauma and symptoms. But I hope you appreciate how much you have accomplished already as you also think about yourself and partner in terms of “dragging around my ACE.” I hope the next ten years are filled with joy, health and ease. Thanks for sharing. Cissy

  14. Thank you Cissy for your kind comment.

    My Book “Shattered, Scattered, Reinvented! How to recover from abuse, rape, injury, illness, divorce, loss or suffering–A Journey to Love, Hope and Healing” which became a #1 Best Seller—You can get the Kindle version (which you can also read on a Mac or PC) for on .99 at https://www.amazon.com/Shattered-Scattered-Reinvented-suffering-healing-ebook/dp/B0786V5DVD

    I hope it helps you along your journey!!

  15. ACE score 6.

    Covert emotional incest survivor. Sexual abuse survivor. Both grandfathers were alcoholics and both died as a direct result of their alcoholism. Father suffered from undiagnosed depression; he committed suicide in ’97. Mother was molested as a young girl and raped as a young woman. She used me as her husband surrogate. I avoided the drugs and alcohol but fell into chronic depression sexual compulsion, which have combined to drive my marriage to the precipice of the abyss.

    I’m only now coming to grips with all of this. I’m thankful every day for therapy; I’ve no doubt that, had I not begun that healing journey, I would have taken my life in the next three years.

    The residue of unresolved childhood trauma is thick, viscous and toxic. It stubbornly sticks to our present and can poison and ultimately destroy our future if it is not addressed.

    • Ajala:
      This line, “It stubbornly sticks to our present and can poison and ultimately destroy our future if it is not addressed.”
      I’m glad you are addressing it now, with support, as the healing journey can be both hard AND hopeful. Best to you.

  16. Hi, there are so many articles on the ACE score, i’m trying to sift through but cant find- how to read the score. My score is high at 8 (Im a Somatic Experiencing Practitioner and Psychotherapist). I’m would like to use this with my clients in Malaysia but wondering how relay the results. Is there a ‘danger’ mark? Thank you.

    • Hi Lana:
      What a great question. It’s one lots of people are thinking about. Lots of discussions about it and ideas for how others are using it on http://www.ACEsTooHigh.com and here in the ACEs in Pediatrics community (not just for pediatricians). And then there’s this site as well. I personally think sharing general info about ACEs and having a conversation works best. Here are some flyers we did at ACEs Connection that can be used. A score of four or over seems to be the number people talk about with risks being higher. However, the test score doesn’t say how an individual with a high score will or won’t do, just that in a huge population study, in general, higher scores had higher risks. But of course, that wasn’t true for everyone. Sounds like you are doing great work!
      ACEs flyers. https://www.acesconnection.com/blog/handouts-for-parents-about-aces-toxic-stress-and-resilience

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