Recognizing Posttraumatic Stress
When can posttraumatic stress occur?
Posttraumatic stress can occur following the experience of an overwhelming incident involving the threat of serious injury or death. Posttraumatic stress may also occur after witnessing or hearing about a critical incident.
What happens during a critical incident?
Reactions to critical events vary from mild reactions involving minor disruptions in a person's typical activities, to severe reactions that may be debilitating. The emotional reaction involves a sense of fear, helplessness, or horror. Physically, it is not uncommon to feel anxiety with increased heart rate and respiration, sweating, and a sense of unreality.
What is an acute stress reaction?
As a result of experiencing a critical incident, people may experience an acute stress reaction which can lead to Acute Stress Disorder, and last up to a month following the critical incident. Some common signs of an acute stress reaction include:
|a sense of unreality or disconnection||difficulty concentrating|
|intrusive thoughts about the event||less interested in activities you used to enjoy|
|nightmares||feeling distant from others|
|avoidance of reminders of the event||hyper alert|
The following are some common problems that co-occur with posttraumatic stress reactions:
|feeling depressed||anger, irritability|
|increased alcohol and/or drug use||physical aches and pains, headaches, nausea|
|feeling emotionally numb||fatigue|
|feeling 'keyed up' or 'on edge'||jumpiness|
Risk and Resilience Factors for PTSD
Risk factors for PTSD development in police Factors promoting resilience after a stressful event
|No gender differences||Healthy decision-making skills|
|Routine work stress is more important||Supportive relationships|
|Poor social support||Good problem-solving skills|
|Panic and distress at time of incident||Good coping skills|
|Childhood abuse||Community supports|
|Positive work experience|
|Healthy diet, exercise|