Positive, tolerable and toxic stressors are gradations of stress lying on a spectrum between trauma and growth. When toxic stressors accumulate, they activate body-wide responses that serve to alter epigenetic influences on brain architecture, ultimately to its detriment, with certain vulnerable individuals more likely to be affected. The result leads to permanent changes in an individual’s ability to respond to their environment.
This effect is dose related: the ‘Adverse Child Experiences’ (ACEs) study has demonstrated that the greater the lifetime exposure to ACEs, the more significant the consequences for the individual. However, in the presence of loving, supportive relationships, the biopsychosocial impacts of trauma can perhaps be mitigated, and the experience of toxic stressors repurposed to serve personal growth.