While PTSD education and awareness have drastically improved, many people are only aware of the trauma induced by the large-scale events that are synonymous with active duty and veteran military. And though those issues are important, they are only one facet of post-traumatic stress disorder. It is crucial that experts and the public understand the less obvious forms of PTSD and how to help those afflicted.
What Other Types of PTSD Need More Attention?
Cumulative PTSD is one of the most dangerous forms of the disorder, because it slowly builds up over time, making symptoms difficult to detect, until they manifest in a destructive manner. Police and first responders are particularly vulnerable to this type of PTSD.
Routine stressors and anxiety triggers like vehicle accidents, car stops, department politics and any other number of prolific tragic scenarios, can wear down even the most resilient police officer or first responder. It is one of the main reasons that many LEOs struggle to reconcile their on-duty and off-duty lives.
This is in contrast to military PTSD, where the disorder is brought about by one or a few deployment missions. The difference being that our military may have had a traumatic mission, but it eventually ended and they were able to leave and return home. Re-exposure, experienced shift after shift, for years, is where law enforcement and first responders are increasingly susceptible to not only single-episode PTSD, but are more likely to be affected by cumulative PTSD, due to the relative nature of their jobs.
Is Cumulative PTSD More Dangerous?
In some ways, cumulative PTSD can be much more of a threat to the sufferer and those around them. Because the stress builds up in small amounts over time, it is easier to be ignored by the sufferer and their support structure.
For instance, if an officer is involved in an on-duty shooting, many departments have procedures and support programs to help an officer deal with potential stress and trauma. There is much less of a stigma attached when seeking help in these types of scenarios, as they are widely acknowledged as a reasonable situation to seek help.
Cumulative PTSD does not have the same level of awareness and support, making it much more difficult to support officers and first responders in need. Many police officers still battle with the stigma attached to seeking mental and emotional support, especially when the sources of stress and anxiety are relatively routine. It is crucial that law enforcement and first responders understand that it is ok to seek help for PTSD from everyday scenarios.
How To Spot Cumulative PTSD
Because cumulative PTSD is relatively gradual, it can make detection more difficult than PTSD from singular extreme events. Catching the symptoms of cumulative PTSD early is essential when trying to be proactive. Single-episode PTSD and cumulative PTSD share many of the same signs, though they may not be obvious at first:
- Aggressive Behavior
- Easily Irritated
- Memory Issues
- Feeling Detached
- Difficulty Concentrating
- Disinterest or Apathy
- Unable to “Switch-Off”
- Persistent Fear
How to Get Help for Cumulative PTSD
Seeking the support of a PTSD professional is a good first step to better understanding PTSD and how to develop healthy coping mechanisms. The level of support will depend greatly on the severity of the disorder. If you catch the symptoms early, you may only need to work on a system or plan for dealing with the stressors and anxiety of the job. If the afflicted is in the latter stages of PTSD and involved in destructive behaviors like addiction, you will likely need much more direct support from treatment professionals.
If you think that you or a loved one may be suffering from cumulative PTSD, the mental health professionals at Warriors Heart can help guide you on the best path towards healing. Whether that means being proactive and creating a support structure or applying to join one of our treatment programs, our team will find the solution that best fits your health and needs.