“Toxic stress” has come up before in previous posts. It can occur when children are exposed to severe, frequent or prolonged traumatic experiences. Researchers refer to these events as Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs).
When kids lack caring, protective relationships with caregivers, the stress response associated with adverse experiences can disrupt normal brain development. And the cumulative effect of toxic stress can take a toll on a person’s physical and mental health, not just in childhood but throughout life.
Toxic stress during childhood is linked it to unhealthy lifestyles later in life, such as using alcohol to cope with stress, tobacco use, and illicit drug use. A Pediatrics article also states that the “biological manifestations of toxic stress” can cause impairment of the immune system and increase risk factors for heart disease, asthma, and other health problems.