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Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and First Responders

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, (PTSD) is when these reactions continue to reoccur for at least one month without resolving. “Seeking professional help immediately following a traumatic stressor may help prevent the onset of PTSD”, advises Dr. Dadson.

6 Reasons Why Veterans and First Responders are Prone to PTSD

Due to the nature of their professions, first responders and Veterans are particularly prone to PTSD.

Factors that contribute to the increased risk of PTSD in Veteran’s and First Responders:

  • Repeated Exposure to Trauma : Continuous exposure can increase the likelihood of developing PTSD for Veterans and first responders.
  • High-Stress Environments : Operating in high-stress environments where split-second decisions are critical, frequent pressure or demand for quick reactions may lead to heightened stress levels.
  • Witnessing Human Suffering : Suffering, injury, and death can have a profound impact on mental health and contribute to the development of PTSD.
  • Loss and Grief : A common aspect faced by first responders and military personnel is dealing with loss and grief. It can be emotionally challenging to witnessing colleagues, friends, or civilians succumb to injuries or traumatic events.
  • Lack of Control : In many situations, first responders and military personnel may perceive a lack of control over their circumstances. This belief can contribute to feelings of helplessness and exacerbate the impact of traumatic experiences.
  • Deployment and Combat Exposure : Military personnel, face unique stressors, especially those deployed in combat zones. Due to the intensity of combat, along with prolonged periods of separation from their loved ones, and the constant threat to personal safety, significantly increase the risk of developing PTSD.
  • Stigmatization and Barriers to Seeking Help : Stigma surrounding mental health within these professions, in addition to concerns about judgment, job security, or the perception of weakness, can delay or prevent individuals from receiving or accessing critical and effective treatment for PTSD.
  • Cumulative Impact :
    Those with long and dedicated careers in professions that involve repeated exposure to multiple traumatic events, over time are at risk contribute for the developing PTSD.

Dr. Dadson identifies:

Untreated traumatic stress can lead to long-term mental health problems such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). A mental health professional who is trauma informed can help you develop coping strategies and a treatment plan to manage your symptoms and improve your overall well-being.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and First Responders

Symptoms of traumatic stress tress can vary from person to person. It is important to seek help from your doctor or a trauma informed counsellor.

Unresolved Trauma

Dr. Mike Dadson observes:

In the moment of exposure to the traumatic stressful event, the person’s nervous system and adrenal glands are altered to help take on the perceived threat. A variety of defensive responses are activated in the body.

Natural experiences of this “not typical event” include things like unwanted upsetting memories of the event, nightmares, flashbacks, emotional and physical reactivity and distress. These can occur when the body is reminded of the traumatic stressors. The body and mind are actually working for you to try and recover from the trauma and process the overwhelming experience over time. Within the event itself, too much is happening all at once and there isn’t enough time to process all the information hitting the mind and body.

Flashbacks can be activated by smells, sounds, and other sometimes seemingly insignificant factors. Many people think of these “reminders” as triggers. Human beings are very good at making attributions. But when our minds makes an attribution, “this is like that” and the traumatic memory engages, then the same defensive reactions to the event reoccur in both the mind and body. This means there is like a “reliving of the event and the experience of event” in the trigger moment. The minds attempt to heal.

Dr. Dadson on PTSD in First Responders

Dr. Michael Dadson also relates:

There are also alterations in arousal and reactivity such as hyper vigilance, increased startle response and difficulty sleeping. In the article “The Neurological Pathways of PTSD, in Insights into Counselling, The Clinical Counselling Magazine, August 2010, Cover Article, Pg. 12, Dr. Dadson’s research is presented showing lasting neurological changes in brain structure overtime with the onset of PTSD. This article discusses development, neuroimaging and cutting edge treatments for those who are affected by PTSD symptoms.

Dr. Michael Dadson remarks:

We learn the ability to cope or manage life’s stressors and childhood is the bottom layers of the psychological scaffolding of the self. If there is childhood trauma, neglect, emotional abuse, or your physical, social, or psychological needs as a child were not met, these may predict strengths or vulnerability to stress management. Our defensive responses are like armour. Our childhood is where we first started to shape our armour. All armour has strengths and vulnerabilities inherent in its design. Where one person may have a strength, another may have a kink. This is where a well-trained Registered Clinical Counsellor who is trauma informed and knows how to assess for the purposes of treatment can be highly beneficial in the healing process.

Factors that contribute to the increased risk of PTSD in Veteran’s and First Responders:

Dr. Dadson on PTSD in First Responders

For more information on trauma and PTSD, visit Dr. Michael Dadson’s Trauma section here.

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