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Types of Traumatic Events Experienced by Firefighters on the Job

Firefighters and PTSD are common because firefighters experience high rates of exposure to traumatic events. One study of U.S. firefighters examined the type of traumatic events witnessed or experienced by firefighters. For example, many had been exposed to crime victim incidents, people who were “dead on arrival” (where the death was not due to natural causes), accidents where there were serious injuries, and some also reported that they had experienced stress associated with giving medical aid to children and infants.  Another study found that firefighters generally reported that medical emergencies and motor vehicle accidents were the most upsetting types of calls that they received.

Firefighters and PTSD Rates

Given that traumatic exposure is common among firefighters, it is not surprising that high rates of PTSD have been found. Studies have found that anywhere between approximately 7% and 37% of firefighters meet criteria for a current diagnosis of PTSD.  Firefighters and PTSD occur far too frequently. This is likely due to a number of reasons, including exposure to previous stressors, where the firefighters worked, how supportive their workplace was and previously posted risk factors.

Firefighters and PTSD: What are the symptoms?

PTSD can cause many symptoms. These symptoms can be grouped into three categories:

1. Re-experiencing symptoms may include: flashbacks—reliving the trauma over and over, including physical symptoms like a racing heart or sweating; bad dreams; and frightening thoughts.  Re-experiencing symptoms may cause problems in a person’s everyday routine. They can start from the person’s own thoughts and feelings. Words, objects, or situations that are reminders of the event can also trigger re-experiencing symptoms.

2. Avoidance symptoms may include: staying away from places, events, or objects that are reminders of the experience; feeling emotionally numb; feeling strong guilt, depression, or worry; losing interest in activities that were enjoyable in the past; and having trouble remembering the dangerous event.  Things that remind a person of the traumatic event can trigger avoidance symptoms. These symptoms may cause a person to change his or her personal routine. For example, after a bad car accident, a person who usually drives may avoid driving or riding in a car. 

3. Hyper-arousal symptoms may include: being easily startled; feeling tense or “on edge”; having difficulty sleeping, and/or having angry outbursts.  Hyperarousal symptoms are usually constant but can also get worse when triggered by things that remind one of the traumatic event. They can make the person feel stressed and angry. These symptoms may make it hard to do daily tasks, such as sleeping, eating, or concentrating.

Firefighters and PTSD: Treatment in Memphis, TN

Because our treatment for PTSD and anxiety programs rely on evidence based practices, our Intensive Outpatient Program shares many common methods with other successful treatment methods.  The foundation of our treatment program for relies on the principles of the stages of change, cognitive behavioral therapy, solution focused treatment, skills training and identifying repetitive dysfunctional behavioral relationship patterns to promote recovery from depression and other mental health disorders.  In fact, our Intensive Outpatient Program in Memphis, TN that has been proven to be effective in the treatment of these disorders in six peer reviewed treatment outcome studies.

Our treatment center provides services to those who need more treatment than one hour a week, but less than 24 hour care, by providing three hours of treatment per day, three to five days per week, in an intensive outpatient setting. It is also important to keep in mind that women and men often experience PTSD and depression differently and therefore the presence of PTSD and depression may also appear differently based on gender. If you or a loved one is showing signs of PTSD, anxiety or depression, they should be assessed by a trained mental health professional who can help design a treatment plan for depression that can result in recovery.  Treatment for depression and anxiety can be highly successful.  People who have completed our program have provide very high consumer satisfaction scores and reviewsCall us at 901-682-6136 to schedule an appointment.