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Robert Weiss PhD, LCSW

Research consistently links adverse childhood experiences (ACES) to adult-life physical, emotional, and relational issues – including an increased risk for addiction (of all types). One well-known study tells us that individuals with four or more significant traumatic experiences during childhood are:

  • 1.8 times as likely to smoke cigarettes
  • 1.9 times as likely to become obese
  • 2.4 times as likely to experience ongoing anxiety
  • 2.5 times as likely to experience panic reactions
  • 3.6 times as likely to be depressed
  • 3.6 times as likely to qualify as promiscuous
  • 6.6 times as likely to engage in early-life sexual intercourse
  • 7.2 times as likely to become alcoholic
  • 11.1 times as likely to become intravenous drug users

Other research on trauma, abuse, and neglect produces similar results. The higher the number of troubling incidents and issues we experience in childhood, the more likely we are to experience physical ailments like heart disease, diabetes, and cancer, and psychological and behavioral issues like anxiety, depression, social isolation, and addiction.

Because of this, in California, where our Seeking Integrity Treatment Centers are located, there is a professional push to use a basic ACES screening as part of every medical and psychological assessment. We believe very strongly in this. Regardless of an individual’s presenting issue(s) – medical, psychological, or both – we believe that clinicians should screen for childhood neglect, abuse, and other forms of trauma.

The ACES test that we use in our treatment centers screens for ten forms of childhood trauma – five personal, five familial.

Personal traumas include:

  • Physical abuse
  • Verbal abuse
  • Sexual abuse
  • Physical neglect
  • Emotional neglect

Familial traumas include:

  • Addiction
  • Domestic violence
  • Incarcerated family member
  • Mental illness
  • Divorce or abandonment

The ACES test is scored one through ten, with each type of trauma experienced counting as one point. An individual with an alcoholic father and an early-life history of verbal abuse and emotional neglect would score three on the ACES screening. What we find at our treatment centers, where we address sex addiction, porn addiction, and paired substance/sex addiction, is that even clients who initially insist they had an idyllic childhood tend to score at least three or four on a basic ACES screening. And once we find out what those three or four (or more) items are, we can dig a little deeper as a way to uncover the early-life issues that underlie a client’s addiction.

If you are interested in taking a quick look at your own early-life issues, a basic ACES screening test can be found at this link. For more information about trauma and the treatment of trauma, plus referrals to clinicians who specialize in this work, contact us via this link or visit the website of the International Association of Trauma Professionals at