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How Might First Responders Experience PTSD And Depression?

How Might First Responders Experience PTSD And Depression?

Emergency medical technicians, paramedics, firefighters, policemen, and more are all first responders – people who typically are the first to arrive in a series of dangerous events. In addition to the physical demands that are required of these individuals, first responders are also likely to experience traumatic stress, which is associated with tragedies and life-threatening events such as those tended to by first-responders. Due to these upsetting events, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression are common occurrences for individuals in these fields. By understanding these issues, we can better support those who may be currently dealing with symptoms of a mental illness such as PTSD.

PTSD is characterized by flashbacks, nightmares, anxiety, paranoia, depression, insomnia, and much more. First responders often see traumatic events as they’ve just occurred, thus leaving mental images, sounds, smells, and more that may trigger them in the future. According to a 2017 study published in the European Journal of Psychotraumatology, derealization and depersonalization (both are forms of dissociation) are also commonly experienced amongst first responders, military members, and veterans, as part of PTSD. Derealization refers to the feelings that one’s surroundings are not real; depersonalization is when one feels as though they are not themselves – that their thoughts or feelings do not belong to them. As one can imagine, these feelings can be incredibly debilitating for many people.

A 2015 study published in the International Paramedic Practice sought to explore stress, anxiety, depression, sleep impairment and pain levels amongst 50 first responders. A total of 34 individuals completed psychological and biological measures; the following results were found:

  • 18% of individuals met the criteria for anxiety
  • 47% met criteria for depression
  • 33% met criteria for PTSD

PTSD, depression, and anxiety can all significantly impact an individual’s quality of life. Treatment for these conditions often includes cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) therapy, and more. Workplaces can become more accommodating to individuals in high-stress environments by providing a safe atmosphere in which individuals can talk to their supervisor, as well as resources to recommend individuals for treatment.

If you haven’t already, speak with a professional from a reputable treatment center today about programs for mental illness and addiction. It’s never too late to seek the help you need; by attending individual and group therapy as well as potentially taking medication and/or engaging in holistic activities, one can develop the tools they need to overcome symptoms of PTSD and lead a happier life.

The Center for Professional Recovery offers the Professional Treatment Program, designed specifically to address the unique needs of professionals, like first-responders. Our programs are designed to treat co-occurring disorders which might arise and restore first-responders in a way which allows them to return to work and continue taking care of their mental health. For information on our full continuum of care for professionals, call us today: (855) 422-4129


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