Police officers are the frontline soldiers in daily conflicts, incidents, accidents and violence. While often underappreciated, these men and women help make our communities stronger and safer every day.
Unfortunately, police officers work under constant stress and pressure. Many police officers suffer trauma because of this constant daily stress, and some become affected with PTSD. Both trauma and PTSD are highly treatable.
Do You Have PTSD or Trauma Related Illness?
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (http://www.ptsd.va.gov/) conducts research on posttraumatic stress disorder and the nature of traumatic events.
Traumatic events can include any event that causes the brain to become aroused and active. Even positive events like a marriage, new home or new baby can cause the brain to react with high arousal. Over time, constant stressors may cause health problems and mental illnesses like depression or anxiety. Severe traumas that police endure on a regular basis can lead to a more severe type of anxiety called posttraumatic stress disorder.
Trauma and stressors experienced by police officers may include the following:
- Witnessing violent crimes
- Entering dangerous situations such as violent households or robberies in progress
- Entering in dangerous car chases
- Constant stress of not knowing if criminals have a weapon or an intent to harm
- Witnessing disasters, acts of terrorism and murder
- Working with traumatized victims of crime
- Accidentally or purposefully having to shoot another person
- Witnessing or accidentally being involved in injury or death of a comrade
- Fear of riots or retaliation
These symptoms can be highly traumatic over time. There are support services available to officers but many police officers do not use these services when needed. If the stress becomes too much, it may impact the officer’s career, ability to make solid decisions or family life. Be aware of PTSD symptoms that require help.
Some symptoms of PTSD include the following:
- Re-experiencing traumas through vivid memories or dreams
- Angry outbursts or episodes of rage
- Bouts of depression or sudden mood swings
- Anxiety or panic attacks
PTSD can also lead to problems with substance abuse and addiction. Many people who struggle with PTSD also struggle with substance abuse. Most officers claim that drinking or engaging in problematic behaviors was originally a way to cope with stress.