two police officers on motorcycles in a night city

PTSD In Police Officers and Law Enforcement

It is estimated that up to 18% of all U.S. police officers suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder. It is also likely that the number of current officers suffering from PTSD is much higher.

Police officers are subject to high-stress, life-threatening tasks each and every day. The danger is 24/7 on and off duty for law enforcement members. Because of the oath our Police Officers take, they are always on the battlefield. To protect itself, the mind can create fear and distances from others to keep officers alert.

Recent police scandals, the media’s spin, and lack of support from top leadership have changed the outlook on police officers. Because of this division, added pressures and everyone and their mother with phone cameras filming officers, the job is getting harder and harder.

How Do Police Officers / Law Enforcement Members Get PTSD?

Critical Incidents

This is a key incident that has triggered a change in the emotional life of an officer. The event can be considered big, such as a shootout, a child’s death, or something else entirely. The incident can also be a single small event that triggers negative thoughts.

What is most important when dealing with PTSD is validating the feelings behind it. Acknowledge the size of the feelings the warrior is having. Let them feel the emotions that go along with PTSD in a safe and controlled environment.

Cumulative PTSD

This is a series of repeated incidents which create a change in the life of an officer. Cumulative PTSD may happen over the course of patrols. Dealing with loss, death, and negative emotions on a regular basis can cause damage.

Cumulative PTSD may not be immediately evident. It just takes one small incident in a routine to trigger PTSD.

Signs and Symptoms of PTSD and Addiction Among Police Officers

Here are some of the symptoms associated with PTSD in police officers:

Rumination

Reliving the same event over and over again. You may not choose to ruminate on an event as it can be triggered by anything at any time.

  • Nightmares
  • Flashbacks
  • Triggered responses

Avoiding triggering situations

Triggers can come without warning. This could motivate police officers to isolate themselves so they can maintain their strength. While it may look like strength, PTSD attacks may actually get worse.

  • Extreme paranoia
  • Extreme nightmares
  • Isolation

Negative changes in feelings

A traumatic event can cause major shifts in a police officer’s emotions and behavior.

  • Outbursts of rage
  • Violence
  • Anger at peers or the public
  • Irritability

Depression

Often, depression will creep into a police officer’s daily life in small ways. These little tasks can begin to affect life as a whole.

  • Substance abuse
  • Declining work performance
  • Absence from work

Hyperawareness (Hyperarousal)

Being thrown into a dangerous situation can cause someone’s awareness to increase and stay that way.

  • Hyperactivity
  • Ultra aware of environment
  • Over-reactive responses

Somatic Responses

Involuntary responses the body makes to cope with stress. While these may not be emotional, they can be indicative of emotional statuses within.

  • Frequent belching
  • Frequent use of antacids
  • Frequent headaches

What do I do if I am a police officer and have PTSD?

Talk to someone honestly. Communication is the best way to deal with your feelings and can provide tools to start healing.

While talking to a coworker or friend can help, it’s ideal to talk to a counselor or therapist. They are experienced and can help give you the tools you need to start healing.

During therapy, don’t hold back your feelings. Be as honest as possible. Honesty allows you and your counselor address your thoughts comprehensively.

I need help. How can Warriors Heart help me?

Warriors Heart is a treatment center located just outside of San Antonio TX that offers police officers and other members of law enforcement with PTSD and substance abuse problems a chance to reclaim their lives. We offer a wide variety of treatment options for PTSD and chemical dependency that help address the root of your concern.

Our staff of licensed counselors and experienced professionals know first-hand the unique lifestyle of a Warrior, someone who dedicates their lives for the safety of others. As a result, we’re able to provide a one of a kind support system from others who are in similar situations.

You’re not alone. Contact Warriors Heart today. (844) 448-2567