Long-Term Effects of First Responder PTSD on Mental Health

This entry was posted in Recovery.

For first responders, a typical day at work entails being in highly-charged situations where injuries and death occur. And due to the nature of their job, first responders must remain calm and on high alert in such cases. And while they undergo rigorous training to help manage these extreme work demands, sometimes this job takes a psychological toll, and they end up experiencing first responder PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder).

First Responder PTSD Is More Common Than You May Think

Over 80% of first responders witness traumatic events. And as a result, about 1 in 3 experience first responder PTSD, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). In comparison, 1 in every 5 members of the public experiences PTSD.

For instance, approximately 400,000 American first responders exhibit some form of PTSD. Also, to break it down, one study found the group with higher incidences of PTSD being paramedics, followed by rescue teams, firefighters, then police officers.

The most common symptoms of first responder PTSD include flashbacks, insomnia, and nightmares. This disorder does not only manifest itself psychologically. Some physical symptoms include sweating, chest pains, and chronic pain.

First Responder PTSD Has Long-term Mental Health Effects

Are you aware that about 37% of American firefighters and Emergency Medical Services workers have contemplated suicide? This statistic is almost ten times the rate of the general population.

PTSD can affect a first responder’s ability to focus on the job. Also, some become emotionally numb and avoidant, alienating their loved ones. First responder PTSD may lead to anxiety disorders and depression, which substance abuse can further complicate.

This substance abuse mainly occurs due to an over-taxed system caused by repeated exposure to traumatic stress. To relieve the shock from each event, first responders turn to alcohol and psychoactive drugs. Also, the PTSD resulting from cumulative exposure can further lead to another form of PTSD known as delayed-onset PTSD.

Hypervigilance is another common long-term effect of first responder PTSD. It refers to being on edge, highly sensitive, and extremely aware of surroundings. The behavioral and physical symptoms include:

  • Overreacting to changes in the physical environment
  • Increased adrenaline
  • Being jumpy
  • Dilated pupils
  • Becoming easily hostile

These symptoms have adverse long-term effects, such as social isolation, insomnia, and substance use.

Deer Hollow Is Here To Help

First responder PTSD can never resolve on its own. It results in more mental health issues, including anxiety and depression. For this reason, you must seek professional support to help you better cope with on-the-job exposure. Deer Hollow specializes in first responder wellness, offering confidential and comprehensive treatments. Learn how to get started by contacting us at (888) 5WE-KNOW today.