UNDERSTANDING POST-TRAUMATIC STRESS DISORDER
With sadness and compassion, we have all heard of soldiers returning from war suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Understanding the traumas of warfare and its aftereffects can help us to recognize the causes and implications of this troubling condition.
While PTSD proliferates in the armed forces, we know that anyone experiencing a traumatic event can develop PTSD. Unfortunately, this is also true for the men and women in law enforcement. Some estimates cite that as many as one in three cops could be suffering from PTSD.
There are different types of PTSD as well as different symptoms, diagnoses, and treatments. A police officer may experience an incremental form of PTSD while an accident victim develops symptoms after a single event. A soldier might suffer PTSD after a brief exposure to danger or stress, while a police officer encounters perilous situations on an almost daily basis. Manifesting over time, cumulative PTSD can take months, even years to surface. Because of its complexity, it requires careful diagnosis and treatment.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR –THE SYMPTOMS.
Though depression, suicidal thoughts, addictions, eating disorders, job-related issues and family conflicts are common in PTSD, the truth is everyone’s experience will be unique. On a physiological level, anatomical changes to the brains of sufferers have been established by neuroimaging studies. PTSD has also been linked to increased inflammation in the body. Realizing that a trauma can literally reshape both the body and brain, it is clear that a qualified medical diagnosis is needed. Too much is at stake to try to home-remedy such a serious and life-changing condition.
If you’re unsure whether it’s PTSD or a temporary case of the blues, start by identifying the signs or symptoms that point toward a serious condition that would benefit from professional help. Symptoms can be found in both the affected law enforcement officer as well as their families.
The signs of PTSD don’t always present themselves with “here I am” declarations; they often encompass a collection of silent, but potentially dangerous physical, emotional and behavioral characteristics. Though there are hundreds of symptoms that may point toward PTSD, an attentive eye should work to identify the following:
- Vomiting or nausea
- Chest pain
- Insomnia or nightmares
- Grinding of teeth
- Profuse sweating
- Pounding heart
- Anxiety or panic
- Intense anger
- Withdrawal from family and friends
- Pacing and restlessness
- Emotional outbursts
- Anti-social acts
- Suspicion and paranoia
- Being easily startled
- Increased alcohol consumption and other substance abuse
With professional help, one can navigate the day-by-day struggles and work toward regaining the mental and physical health enjoyed before PTSD. It is important to identify the problem and get professional help for anyone suffering, as well as their loved ones. It’s also important to understand that PTSD is treatable.
Innovative therapies are currently available and new options are regularly studied to treat anyone plagued by Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, including police. If you or someone you know is suffering, do not hesitate to talk to your physician or a mental health professional to start the journey towards PTSD recovery.