A traumatic event is an overwhelming or uncontrollable experience that can happen to anyone at any age. It may be a personally life threatening experience or may involve witnessing something that causes you to feel intensely horrified or helpless. Although not all critical incidents are traumatic events, many duty-related experiences can be traumatizing.

PTSD or Posttraumatic Stress Disorder is a combination of symptoms that may develop after experiencing a trauma. In police officers, this is sometimes referred to as Critical Incident Stress. Different individuals can have different responses to the same trauma or critical incident. These feelings can begin immediately after the event or may not appear until months later and may have a mild to severe impact on the person’s life. People who have experienced previous traumatic events may be particularly vulnerable to having a strong reaction to a recent traumatic event. Also, people like police officers who experience critical incidents on a regular basis may develop critical incident stress in reaction to an accumulation of numerous incidents. Some of the more typical traumatic stress responses are:

• Nightmares or unwanted daytime images of the event
• Distress or upset when reminded of the event
• Avoidance of thoughts or reminders of the event
• Social withdrawal or difficulty feeling close to others
• Emotional numbing
• Sleep difficulties
• Anger or irritability
• Jumpiness
• Hypervigilence

If you would like to know more about PTSD or are experiencing any of the above symptoms and would like some help, please do not hesitate to contact us at (800) 994-9006 or via email at info@policestressandhealth.net

Help your fellow police professionals by sharing your personal experiences of both critical incident and routine work stress and the strategies you''ve used (positive and negative) to stay physically and mentally healthy. This column will occasionally spotlight a member of the law enforcement community whose experience illustrates successful strategies for managing stress.

If you are a law enforcement professional and would like to contribute, please contact us at our email address: info@policestressandhealth.net

We look forward to learning from your experience.