Our society relies heavily on first responders who put themselves in harm’s way every single day. These courageous individuals make sacrifices in order to protect their communities and to shield civilians from danger.
Police officers, firefighters, emergency dispatchers, EMTs, and military personnel assess and have to cope with situations that most ordinary people would never dream of dealing with. In the line of their work, they often see tragedy, sexual violence, child abuse, and even death.
Additionally, first responders are expected to maintain a high level of professionalism and remain in strict control of their emotions and physical reactions at all times.
Since they are repeatedly exposed to “critical incidents,” they often develop trauma-related disorders, such as PTSD.
What Is PTSD?
Post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, is a disorder in which a person who has experienced or witnessed one or more traumatic events has a difficult time recovering from the event.
According to information from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), there are basically three different types of PTSD:
- Avoidance – A lack of feeling of attachment and/or interest in daily life or in former interests. Feelings of depression or guilt and/or avoiding people or places that may be triggering.
- Hyperarousal – Being “on edge” or easily startled, feeling intensely angry, or struggling to sleep at night.
- Re-experiencing – Nightmares or flashbacks that involve rapid breathing and/or sweating, feelings of overwhelming fear, or generally “intrusive” thoughts and memories.
Symptoms of these types of PTSD can include the following:
- Insomnia and problems with sleep
- Nightmares and flashbacks to an originating traumatic experience
- Numbness or emotional “emptiness”
- Infidelity and extramarital affairs
- Alcohol and substance abuse
- Emotional eating and problems with food
- Jumpiness and anxiety
- Withdrawing from family or loved ones
Obviously, first responders who deal with trauma on a daily basis are at a much higher risk for developing PTSD than many other people. It’s because these professionals must repeatedly endure high-stress, high-danger scenarios.
How Do PTSD Symptoms Specifically Relate to First Responders?
First responders are specifically susceptible to PTSD symptoms that are destructive and subtle in nature. In each case, though, they can manifest differently—affecting behavior, mood, and thoughts. Not every first responder with PTSD will have symptoms that look exactly the same.
Lamentably, first responders will also often hide their symptoms. Why?
As a society, we want to view first responders as invincible because we need to believe they can get their jobs done safely and successfully when everything and everyone else is in chaos. Thus, we expect them to always maintain the highest levels of composure and confidence. Because of this, they subconsciously learn to bury their emotions due to stigma, denial, or both.
Moreover, first responders are taught to remain brave and “tough” even in difficult and dangerous situations. For these reasons, they often struggle to seek the professional help they need. They may believe or have been told to “toughen up” or just “deal with it.”
Sometimes, of course, they simply may not realize that the symptoms they are experiencing are a result of the PTSD they have developed while doing their jobs. (For instance, why would an individual who had an extramarital affair see that as a symptom of PTSD?) Thus, many symptoms remain undetected. And because so many first responders are struggling, they may falsely believe that “everyone” in their line of work has these problems and that it is “just part of the job.”
But it isn’t!
How Can Professional Treatment Help First Responders with PTSD Symptoms?
Many first responders who struggle with PTSD may benefit from seeking professional help through a specific type of counseling.
Rapid Resolution Therapy, or “RRT,” is a treatment program that works specifically well for first responders and military members who have experienced work-related trauma and who are struggling with PTSD. And it is currently one of the most successful therapy programs for healing trauma.
The reason RRT is ideal for treating first responders with PTSD is that the treatment does not re-traumatize by discussing details. It is conceptual and focuses on separating traumatic experiences from the associated psychological suffering—mental and emotional pain. And thus, it teaches clients to permanently overcome the negative effects of trauma without having to dwell on the specifics of their individual experiences.
If you are a first responder who is struggling with many of the aforementioned symptoms of PTSD, Rapid Resolution Therapy may be able to help. RRT is completely painless, and clients often see significant results within only a handful of treatment sessions.