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The Effects of PTSD on First Responders Are Cumulative

May 10, 2018 |

Police Car

When people think of the type of work disability that may affect first responders, they tend to envision the most obvious physical injuries: gunshots for police officers; burns or smoke inhalation for firefighters; muscle strains and dangerous exposures for EMTs lifting patients or working with those who are extremely ill. But according to recent studies, one of the most insidious dangers faced by first responders is PTSD, or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Though PTSD is usually associated with experiencing a single traumatic event, there are actually two different types of incident trauma. The first is what is known as “critical incident trauma,” which is the effect of a single incident such as witnessing a shooting or a violent accident. The second type is referred to as “complex PTSD.” First responders are particularly vulnerable to the cumulative effects of witnessing emotionally devastating scenes over a greater length of time, and this type of PTSD is considered far more difficult to treat than critical incident PTSD because it builds up subtly and involves more incidents. As a result, they become more deeply ingrained.

PTSD in first responders can happen in many different ways. It may be a result of directly experiencing a traumatic event themselves or witnessing it in person as it happens to somebody else. It can also involve learning about a traumatic event happening to a close friend or colleague or experiencing repeated or extreme exposure to traumatic events. For police officers, EMTs, firefighters and other first responders these situations are made even more challenging by long hours and growing uncertainty about the dangers that they may be headed into with each call. These work stress factors add up, making PTSD all the more likely. It is estimated that up to 30 percent of all first responders will develop PTSD over the course of their career.

As is true of other types of workplace injuries, PTSD is considered a work disability for which first responders are able to seek care, and even time away from work if that is indicated. If you or someone you love is showing signs and symptoms of PTSD, it is important that you seek medical attention and alert your supervisor to your concerns. If you need help with navigating the process of filing a work disability claim, contact our office to set up an appointment with one of our compassionate professionals.