As a result of the nature of their job, police officers are exposed to traumatic events that may lead to PTSD in police officers. For example, police officers experience frequent exposure to traumatic incidents that pose a threat to their life or physical integrity such as gunfire, road accidents, homicides, and suicides. Most of these traumatic events have major effects on their occupational and psycho-social functioning.
Like most people, the majority of law enforcement officers subjected to traumatic events will not develop posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Reports have described a number of risk and protective factors associated with the development of PTSD in police officers. These quite often be classified into three different categories: pre-traumatic, peri-traumatic, and post-traumatic.
Recent investigations also show that the accumulation of pre-traumatic (before the traumatic event) duty-related critical incidents, occupational stressors, and a greater exposure to traumatic events at work in the previous year may contribute to the development of PTSD in police officers. Some other studies showed that limited work experience increased the chances of developing PTSD in police officers with less experience. The effect of past personal traumas has also been shown to be a significant predictor in the future development of posttraumatic stress disorder symptoms among law enforcement officers.
Peri-traumatic (during the trauma) experiences such as, emotional and physical reactions during trauma, dissociation, threat to one’s partner’s life, severity of exposure, as well as exposure to death also represent risk elements in the development of PTSD in police officers. In addition, family psychiatric history (substance abuse disorders, mood and anxiety) was also recognized as a susceptibility factor for experiencing greater peri-traumatic distress to critical incident exposure, which, therefore, heightened the risk of developing post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms among law enforcement officers. Women police officers apparently have more risk of developing PTSD after a traumatic event when compared with their male counterparts.
Moreover, one study1 have discovered that police officers undertaking unusual responsibilities during a critical event (including working outside one’s area of competence or working for extended time) were more at risk of developing PTSD. The research that assessed peri-traumatic protective factors revealed that police officers who received support from their colleagues during, or right after, a traumatic event developed less PTSD symptoms.
Research studies have also outlined a number of post-traumatic factors that predict PTSD in police officers, including a short amount of time allotted by the employer to recover from the event, discontent from the officer regarding organizational support, and inadequate social support outside of police work. Incident-related depressive symptoms, physical injuries, together with subsequent negative life events, have also been considered to be risk factors for the development of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder among law enforcement officers. Research shows that using avoidance-based strategies to manage traumatic events may contribute to an increase in posttraumatic stress disorder symptoms among law enforcement officers.
This prospective study found that only 3% of the sample developed posttraumatic stress disorder symptoms among law enforcement officers, while 9% experienced partial PTSD. In contrast, data from the retrospective study showed that 7.6% of the sample went on develop PTSD in police officers and 6.8% developed sub-syndromal or partial PTSD.
Because our treatment for depression and anxiety, including PTSD 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 with first responders and law enforcement officers in six peer reviewed treatment outcome studies. Unfortunately, less half of all individuals with any psychological condition in Tennessee will receive mental health treatment and law enforcement officers are even more reluctant to seek 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 depression differently and therefore the presence of depression may also appear differently based on gender. If you or a loved one is showing signs of depression or anxiety, including PTSD, 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 reviews. Call us at 901-682-6136 to schedule an appointment.
1 Predictors of posttraumatic stress disorder among police officers: A prospective study. Marchand A, Nadeau C, Beaulieu-Prévost D, Boyer R, Martin M. Psychol Trauma, 7(3):212-21. doi: 10.1037/a0038780.