Signs of PTSD

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety disorder that can develop after a person experiences or witnesses a traumatic, shocking or frightening event. For a fire fighter, this might involve running into a burning home, searching for and rescuing someone, or witnessing the injuries of a victim or victims. For some, PTSD begins soon after the disturbing event. For others, it develops months or even years later, often after a triggering incident. This might be something as innocent as seeing a burning candle, hearing children playfully screaming at a park, or running up a flight of stairs.

Some of the most common symptoms of PTSD include:

  • Intrusive memories: It’s common to relive the traumatic event in memories, which can manifest as flashbacks, nightmares and disturbing thoughts about the incident.
  • Avoidance behaviors: In an attempt to prevent extreme distress, individuals with PTSD tend to avoid reminders and feelings associated with their trauma. This could involve certain places, activities and even people, potentially disrupting normal daily functioning.
  • Increased arousal and reactivity: Symptoms of these may include irritability, anger, aggression, hypervigilance, insomnia and startling or becoming sensitive easily.
  • Negative changes in mood and thought: Symptoms of these may include negative mood shifts, distorted beliefs about oneself, others and the world, feelings of detachment and guilt, or lack of interest in previously enjoyable activities.

All of these symptoms can be obstacles to a normal life at home and on the job, both inside and outside of the firehouse. They can also be a hindrance to healthy relationships with co-workers, friends and family. As a result, many fire fighters seek unhealthy methods of self-medicating, including drugs and alcohol. Some even consider and attempt suicide .

No one should suffer with PTSD on their own. If you’re a fire fighter struggling with this disorder, or you know one who is, the team at IAFF Center of Excellence wants to help you. Give us a call  to speak with one of these professionals, and regain your peace of mind.

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