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In honor of PTSD awareness month, we are writing this post about firefighters with PTSD.  Emergency workers are being exposed to and directly witnessing traumatic events on a very regular basis. These include firefighters, emergency medical personnel, ambulance drivers, paramedics, and nurses. Research reveals that 56% to 88% of individuals working in these professions have been exposed to one or more traumatic events.

Because of the high rate of exposure these first responders have to traumatic events, emergency personnel are at a high rate of risk for developing posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Certain variables apparently play a part in why some emergency workers who have been exposed to a few traumatic events develop symptoms of PTSD while other emergency workers don’t. For example, firefighters with PTSD symptoms may have higher rates, depending on: country they reside in, educational level, frequency and number of traumatic events, gender, how recent the event occurred, training, type of traumatic event and years of service.

There is a suggestion that how the emergency worker interprets the threat could be a major contributor in whether they develop symptoms of firefighter PTSD. One cognitive model for PTSD assumes that how the person interprets the traumatic event, instead of the event itself, is the cause of the emotional reaction. This theory surmises that the person who develops PTSD has interpreted the traumatic event as something unacceptable. They then go on to evaluate the event and determine that the traumatic event has permanently damaged his or her mental or physical health and/or relationships, impeding his or her ability to resume a normal life. In a similar vein, emotional processing theory to explain the effectiveness of exposure treatment for PTSD. Exposure therapy is one of the most widely used types of treatment and has been shown to be effective in firefighters with PTSD.

The study being discussed in this article set out to look at the contribution psychopathology may make, along with four different aspects of traumatic events: the number of, its recency, the frequency of, and the perceived threat as they relate to firefighters with PTSD. The study set out to determine what the perceived threat contributed to the symptoms, after making adjustments for the other aspects and the person’s psychopathology.

As they hypothesized, perceived threat accounted for the symptoms of firefighters with PTSD. While there was just a small rise in variance, only perceived threat along with psychopathology were significant correlates of the symptoms of PTSD in firefighters.

These results proved to be consistent with the original model they conceived that postulated that someone’s negative interpretation of the traumatic event is one contributing variable in firefighters with PTSD. This study revealed that the perceived threat of events that firefighters face turned out to be the strongest correlate of symptoms of PTSD when you compare with the number of incidents, the recency and the frequency of those traumatic events.

According to this theory, firefighters with PTSD can be helped by providing support from mental health professionals so they do not form extremely negative views about the events and to help them find a way to interpret these incidents in a less threatening manner so they can gain some sense of control.

Because our treatment for depression 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 seven peer reviewed treatment outcome studies.  Unfortunately less half of all individuals with any mental illness in Tennessee will receive mental health treatment.

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 in firefighters may also appear differently based on gender. If you or a loved one is showing signs of PTSD, they should be assessed by a trained mental health professional who can help design a treatment plan for PTSD that can result in recovery.  Treatment for PTSD and depression 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.