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Police officers must not disregard signs of cumulative PTSD

On Behalf of | Nov 13, 2018 | High Risk Occupations |

If you are a member of the California police force, you may not understand the ways in which the stresses of your job affect you. While post-traumatic stress disorder is typically associated with soldiers and other military force members, few people realize that a different type of PTSD takes a heavy toll on the lives of police officers and their loved ones. The stress soldiers suffer usually results from a single event or brief exposure to extreme trauma, while police officers could experience multiple disturbing situations each day.

For that reason, the condition that manifests over time in members of the police force after exposure to multiple stress-related and traumatic events goes by the name of cumulative PTSD. Although you might receive trauma counseling after a single traumatic event, the gradual accumulation caused by daily incidents might go unnoticed and untreated.

What causes cumulative PTSD?

Although numerous recognized traumatic events cause cumulative PTSD, the following list shows that less traumatic incidents could exacerbate your stress levels:

  • Hostage situations
  • Fatal crash response
  • Dangerous drug busts
  • Long hours
  • Uncertainty about the nature of the next call
  • Dealing with aggression and other attitudes
  • Potential internal investigations, criticism and scrutiny
  • The need to make split-second, life-or-death decisions

You will need to develop special emotional tools to be unaffected by these challenges.

Early recognition of physical symptoms can help

Cumulative PTSD can debilitate family life and other relationships. However, you can look out for the following physical red flags that might prompt early treatment:

  • Insomnia
  • Nightmares
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Chest pain
  • Diarrhea and intestinal upsets
  • Vomiting and nausea
  • Breathing difficulty
  • Profuse sweating
  • Pounding heart
  • Twitches
  • Grinding of teeth

The sooner cumulative PTSD treatment starts, the better the chances of avoiding a severe condition.

You and your loved ones might notice behavioral signs

If you and your family know the following telltale signs of cumulative PTSD, you might receive treatment before relationships suffer:

  • Emotional outbursts
  • Withdrawal from friends and family
  • Excessive alcohol consumption
  • Substance abuse
  • Pacing and restlessness
  • Paranoia and suspicion
  • Anti-social acts

Remember that sharing your thoughts is better than keeping them in your head.

Do not disregard emotional signs

Your family might find it easier just to avoid your company when you show the following emotional signs, but they might be the first indications of cumulative PTSD:

  • Agitation
  • Irritability
  • Panic or anxiety
  • Apprehension
  • Guilt
  • Denial
  • Fear
  • Intense anger
  • Depression

Fortunately, awareness of the damage that multiple stress-related incidents during every shift can cause for law enforcement officers is growing, and you will not have to deal with the financial consequences of cumulative PTSD on your own. An experienced California workers’ compensation attorney can assist with the navigation of a benefits claim. The benefits will likely cover medical expenses and a portion of your lost wages.