Dr. Nadine Burke Harris had one of those rare and amazing “aha!” moments a decade ago when reading a scientific paper. Researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had found that the more traumatic events a person suffered in childhood — things like physical, emotional or sexual abuse, mental illness in a parent, divorce, neglect and domestic violence — the more likely he or she was to also suffer from chronic stress-related health problems like heart disease, obesity and premature death decades later.
For weeks after reading that paper, she says she was not getting a lot of sleep as she pored over the research on these so-called adverse childhood events, or ACEs. Suddenly, what she had been seeing in her patients all day made sense. There was the 7-year-old with persistent asthma, for instance, whose body she realized was overwhelmed by the cumulative trauma from his mother’s depression, his father’s heavy drinking and a sexual assault three years earlier. Asthma medication wasn’t enough to help this young patient; she needed also to recognize and treat the chronic stress that was making it impossible for him to recover.
Dr. Burke Harris, who founded and runs the Center for Youth Wellness in San Francisco, has dedicated the years since to treating chronic stress and raising awareness about the link between traumatic life events and our health.
[For more on this story by KAREN WEINTRAUB, go to https://www.nytimes.com/2018/0...ong-term-health.html]