Unfolding Reality of First Responder PTSD

PTSD, also known as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, is a mental health condition that is brought on after witnessing or experiencing a traumatic event. Anyone can develop PTSD, but a new statistic shows that it inordinately affects first responders. The Ruderman Family Foundation published a paper in April 2018 that highlights the link between first responders, mental health issues, and high rates of suicide. Though these people experience some of the worst traumas imaginable, according to the paper, very few try to get professional help due to the perceived stigma around mental health services. Read on to discover more about the symptoms of first responder PTSD and the available treatment options.

Common Symptoms of First Responder PTSD

For first responders with PTSD, there is no common pattern for how the symptoms can first manifest. People process traumatic events in different ways. An individual’s response to trauma depends on their past experiences, existing mental health problems like anxiety and depression, and how their brain releases and regulates chemicals during stressful situations. Most people who suffer from PTSD, however, usually experience one or more of these three common symptoms.

One frequent symptom is called intrusive memories or “re-experiencing” symptoms. These memories are often triggered by words, objects, thoughts, or situations that remind the person of the event. Intrusive memories can include reliving the event while awake, recurring dreams or memories about the event, and strong emotional or physical reactions to reminders of the event.

Another indication of PTSD is avoidance symptoms. In order to avoid reminders of the traumatic event, someone may acquire negative tendencies, alter their regular routine, or entirely block out all details of the event. Avoidance symptoms can also manifest as:

  • Being unable to express either positive or negative emotions
  • Avoiding people, places, objects, and activities that remind them of the event
  • An increase in feelings of worry, guilt, hopelessness, or depression
  • Negative feelings about themselves or others
  • Trouble maintaining relationships
  • Memory problems
  • No longer being interested in activities they once enjoyed.

The last kind of common symptoms is hyper-arousal symptoms. These are excessive reactions to events and situations that the person would have dealt with calmly in the past. This includes being more irritable, having frequent outbursts of anger, being easily startled, always being on guard for danger, and trouble sleeping or concentrating while awake. Hyper-arousal symptoms may occur consciously or sub-consciously.

Where First Responders and their Loved Ones Can Find Help

In order to block out the negative symptoms mentioned above, many with PTSD turn to negative coping mechanisms like alcohol or substance abuse. This, however, will not help to alleviate the symptoms and will only lead to more problems. In even more serious cases, untreated PTSD may even lead to attempted suicide and death.

If you or a loved one is suffering from PTSD, the best thing you can do is get help. Professional help is needed to get you the complex PTSD treatments that you need. Find a skilled and trustworthy mental health care provider in your area who will work with you to create a proper treatment plan.

Contact us at Kinder in the Keys, Inc. to learn more about all the treatment options available for those who suffer from PTSD.


Author Bio

Dr. Laura Tanzini, DrPh, MA, MFT

Dr. Laura Tanzini is a highly educated and accomplished professional with a background in biology and psychology. She received a BS in Biology from UC Riverside, an MA in psychology from Phillips Graduate Institute, and a Doctorate in Public Health with a specialty in Lifestyle Medicine from Loma Linda University.

Dr. Laura Tanzini is a Board Certified Professional Counselor, Integrative Medicine Clinician, and PTSD Clinician. She has worked in multiple medical hospitals, mental health institutions, and inpatient eating disorder clinics. Also, Dr. Tanzini has written scholarly papers and spoken on various topics related to nutrition, stress, menopause, obesity, depression, anxiety, and human development.