As a uniformed professional you run a greater risk of being exposed to trauma. It's the nature of your work, and sometimes it means being involved in dangerous situations where the risk of death or serious bodily harm is very real. Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a type of health issue that can develop after going through one or more traumatic events.
What is PTSD?
PTSD is a type of anxiety problem. You might develop PTSD after something terrible and scary happened to you, or if you witnessed or learned about a traumatic situation. These include:
military or combat situations
crime scene investigations
natural disasters like a fire, flood, earthquake, or tornado
serious accidents like a car wreck, train, or airplane crash
physical or sexual assault
childhood sexual or physical abuse
How does PTSD develop?
Anyone who experiences a traumatic event might develop PTSD. The reasons why some people develop PTSD and others do not are unclear. However, what we do know is that some things increase your chance of developing PTSD:
the severity and length of the traumatic event
the intensity of your stress reaction
whether or not you felt in control during the event
whether or not you were hurt or lost someone you loved
the level and quality of support you received after the event
whether your environment provided you opportunities to come into contact with reminders of the event like having conversations about it or visiting the place where it happened.
What are the signs of PTSD?
Stressful reactions to traumatic events are normal despite how abnormal or confusing these reactions might feel. You might experience a range of mind and body responses during and after a traumatic event. As time passes you might continue to experience certain reactions. When these responses continue beyond the 4-week mark they can cause significant distress and begin to interfere with important areas of life including work, home, family, and friends. Three categories of negative stress reactions or signs of PTSD include:
reliving the traumatic event by having flashbacks, intrusive thoughts or memories, or nightmares
avoiding things that remind you of the traumatic event such as people, places, movies, conversations, or TV shows; and numbing of your general responsiveness to things
feeling hyperaroused, “super” alert or “keyed up” in anticipation of danger or a disaster
If these signs persist over time and do not go away, you might have PTSD.
What other problems do people with PTSD experience?
If you are experiencing signs of PTSD, you might also be experiencing other related problems:
feelings of hopelessness
depression or panic
drinking or drug problems
physical or chronic pain
intimate relationship problems.
Getting treatment for PTSD will often help resolve these other problems.
Can PTSD be treated?
Yes. Effective treatments for PTSD are available. They can include a combination of counseling, medication, and various types of therapies designed to help you reframe your thought patterns and alter your behaviors. Trauma and trauma-related problems are some of the many reasons uniformed professionals seek services at the USP, which is dedicated exclusively to working with police, firefighters, active and retired military, corrections personnel, and EMTs.
At the USP, we designed a specialized Intensive Outpatient PTSD program exclusively for you. The program runs half days over the course of five days. It mainly involves individual work with a trained staff member along with some group work involving other uniformed service professionals. The program uses Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) as the basis of its approach. ACT is a scientific and evidence-based model of treatment that emphasizes learning by doing.
As you progress through the program, you will learn to re-engage in important life activities despite trauma-related thoughts, emotions, memories, or images that have come to control what you do.
You will also learn that these trauma-related experiences (1) are a part of you, (2) are not dangerous, (3) are something important and meaningful to have, (4) become less distressful to be with, and that (5) in their presence you can still do things that are important to you. Our ultimate goal is to help you lead yourself to living a more vital and meaningful life while diminishing the frequency and impact of troubling responses to your trauma story.
For more information about this specialized USP program for treating PTSD, call 802-258-3700 or go to our Central Intake Department.