Post Traumatic Stress is part of the Law Enforcement profession. Once you recognize the symptoms, you can start to deal with it.
The article was written by Eddie Molina in conjunction with the medical community. Check with your union official for additional resources.
Law enforcement officers are faced with complex and traumatic cases regularly. Unfortunately, not all of them have the emotional support to preserve their mental health. It’s no surprise that burnout rates in law enforcement can be incredibly high with such high levels of stress.
But this doesn’t mean there aren’t ways for law enforcement officers to process and deal with it. These powerful emotions they feel during and after different investigations can be managed properly.
We will outline some essential advice for those who wish to give positive messages. They are of hope, encouragement, and caring to friends who are part of the law enforcement community. They are specifically ones that could offer solace during moments when an officer is suffering from fatigue or distress.
The Science of PTSD
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety disorder that can affect anyone who has gone through a traumatic experience, including law enforcement officers. Officers are exposed to a wide range of calls on a regular basis that the general public rarely encounters, if ever.
Examples like dealing with an extreme child abuse case, a horrific murder scene or having another person die in their arms are just a few. And trauma doesn’t necessarily require the officer to be the subject of the trauma. People being exposed to traumatic events, as officers are regularly, will contribute to Post Traumatic Stress.
PTSD is characterized by symptoms like intrusive thoughts, flashbacks, nightmares, and emotional numbness.
Law enforcement officers are exposed to high-stress levels, and many do develop PTSD. Signs and symptoms of PTSD in law enforcement officers include difficulty sleeping, avoiding people or activities they used to enjoy, depression, anxiety, and irritability. They may also have physical symptoms like headaches or stomach pains.
However, identifying PTSD in law enforcement officers is not always easy. Some officers may try to ignore their symptoms or deny experiencing them because of the stigma associated with PTSD and law enforcement. Others may be afraid to talk about it out of fear that it might affect their job.
How many officers do you know have a tough exterior and always declare they’re not susceptible to this issue? Many take that attitude and may not even realize they are dealing with the effects. They may normalize certain behaviors like angry outbursts.
“The person driving in front of me is terrible at driving! ‘Get off the f****** road as*****!!!’”
Is the person really driving that bad? Likely not, but the anger response is justified by the other person’s driving ability.
What To Do
If you think someone you know is experiencing PTSD, there are some things you can do to support them.
- First, be available to listen and provide emotional support. Let the person know you’re there for them and that talking about their feelings is okay.
- Second, encourage the person to seek professional help. Offer to accompany them if they need moral support or assistance getting an appointment with a mental health care provider.
- Third, look for any signs of self-harming behavior and offer to help if necessary.
- Finally, remind the person that treatments can help with PTSD and that they are not alone.
Treatments for PTSD in law enforcement officers vary greatly. They include cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) therapy, exposure therapy, and medications.
The complexities of PTSD in police law officers have been a constant challenge. As these law officers deal with the daily realities of gun violence, hostage situations, and terrorist threats, their emotional experiences are often hidden and silenced. Their struggle to decipher life’s tragedies can take a toll emotionally and psychologically without the necessary resources to cope. Police officer puts themselves and the public at risk while they are living with this debilitating disorder. It affects their home lives, and their ability to successfully perform their jobs.
We need to acknowledge this disabling condition that lurks beneath law enforcement’s surface and ensures that psychological assistance is available. Only then can we start to reverse the damage done far too often due to untreated PTSD complications in those who serve us so bravely.
Sukhmanjeet Kaur Mann, & Marwaha, R. (2022, February 7). Posttraumatic Stress Disorder. Nih.gov; StatPearls Publishing. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK559129/
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