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Matters Of The Mind: Confronting An Adverse Childhood

BOSTON (CBS) -- For Dana Jay Bein, there's a lot to look forward to as the year comes to a close. The Cambridge comedian, originally from Western Massachusetts, will release his first ever comedy album, Western Masochist, and kick off 2016 with the 5th annual "100 First Jokes" at Improv Boston.

But his route to productive, happy and healthy adult wasn't necessarily a smooth one.

See More From The Matters Of The Mind Series

"I've struggled with depression. That's not something I'm afraid to talk about," Bein tells WBZ-TV. "Being emotionally honest is a huge thing I think. I am not afraid to sob. I'm not afraid to yell. But once I do that and it's out of my system, I can reflect."

Dana Jay Bein (WBZ)

Reflection for Bein included accepting a part of his life that the Centers for Disease Control says is incredibly common- an adverse childhood experience. The CDC found nearly two thirds of participants in a large, long-term study, experienced some sort of trauma in childhood. Those experiences, researchers concluded, correlated to a higher risk for a multitude of health issues over the course of a person's life.

"One of the problems with experiencing trauma in childhood is that kids try to make sense of it," says Dr. Sidney Trantham, a clinical psychologist and Associate Professor at Lesley University. "Unfortunately, we don't have the cognitive skills to interpret those experiences yet, and we often end up coming to faulty conclusions."

Those conclusions are often self-focused, leading the individual to a pattern of thinking that there is something wrong with himself. Dr. Trantham notes trauma is a broad term that, in the ACEs quiz and study by the CDC, is used to describe various types of abuse, neglect and household dysfunction.

Take The Quiz Here (PDF) | Learn More About ACE Study

"One of the reasons to really confront trauma is that it affects our ability to be present in relationships," says Dr. Trantham. "We know from a lot research that relationships are key to our overall health."

As a person's ACE score rises, the overall chances of not only mental health problems rises, but also physical health concerns like heart disease, liver disease, sexually transmitted diseases and unintended pregnancies.

Bein says his ACE score is off the charts, yet those experiences are in a way, responsible for his success on the comedy stage. Perhaps more importantly, confronting those experiences as an adult, have lead to greater confidence in his overall resilience and satisfaction in his relationships with others.

Dana in a childhood picture. (Photo credit Dana Jay Bein)

"We all have it so connecting with trauma is not such a bad thing. Let's not keep it down. Let's talk about it," said Bein. "It's not to minimize it, it's to humanize it."

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Dr. Trantham insists that a high ACE score does not doom a person to a maladaptive or unfulfilling life. He encourages adults to take a look at their lives and evaluate their satisfaction in three areas: home, work and play. If you feel one of them is out of balance, it's important to know that life can get better.

"Maybe you want to seek out some counseling because the reality is, you can probably enjoy more out of life if you can work on some of the things that have impacted you," said Trantham.

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