People who experience a traumatic experience view their first responders as heroes. These are the officers, EMTs, and other personnel who put their lives at risk to help others. What’s less often discussed is how these traumas affect those brave men and women who respond first. Post-traumatic stress injury (PTSI) is common in first responders, and it’s time they get the treatment they deserve.

The psychological and lifestyle issues that stem from PTSI slowly work their way to the surface. It can be days, months, or even years before the person realizes what’s happening. In the meantime, they’re on a destructive path that leads to unhealthy lifestyle choices like substance abuse or erratic behavior.

It’s not a weakness — PTSI is an illness that can affect the person, their family, and the community. That’s why we need to put first responders first.

What Is Post-Traumatic Stress Injury?

Although trauma has existed for as long as life itself, its effects weren’t recognized nor studied until 1980. Psychologists diagnosed Vietnam War veterans with a psychological disorder they dubbed post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). People finally had an answer to many of the problems they experienced surviving a traumatic life experience.

It’s not just soldiers who experience PTSD, nor does it only stem from the battlefield. The psychological consequences are so severe and life-altering that the past thirty years have shed light on the data. According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, nearly eight million people have PTSD in any given year. Approximately 8% of the population will suffer from it, and it’s no longer viable to use a stigmatizing term like “disorder.”

Post-traumatic stress is an injury caused by trauma. An otherwise healthy person is mentally and emotionally changed by outside circumstances.

Signs and Symptoms of PTSI

Recognizing symptoms is the first step toward treating PTSI.  They can easily overcome a person who is either directly or indirectly exposed to a traumatic event. There’s a laundry list of such symptoms, including:

  • Fear, guilt, or shame.
  • Depression or avoidance
  • Self-destructive patterns
  • Lack of proper self-care
  • Irrational anger
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Substance abuse

The signs someone has experienced trauma are easy to identify, but the symptoms are much more subjective. They start as stray thoughts or unexplained nightmares. It’s not long before they materialize in the form of paranoid perimeter checks, aggression, and erratic or even violent behavior. Early and often treatment is the most effective way to save lives.

PTSI Treatment Options

According to the National Institute of Health, the American Psychological Association and VA recommend several therapy options for patients. Each organization has a different opinion on levels of effectiveness, but they fall into four basic “strongly recommended” therapy categories.

Prolonged Exposure Therapy

Prolonged exposure continues to introduce terrifying scenarios to the patient either through imagination or in vivo exposure. These purposeful retellings allow patients to confront the trauma and how it materializes in everyday scenarios. It can be done in a group or one-on-one session.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive therapy is a practical approach that uses short-term goals to document and quantify successes. This data-driven talk therapy helps you identify and challenge your negative behaviors in a meaningful way. Several forms of cognitive therapy are used to manage the mental symptoms of the injury.

Narrative Exposure Therapy

Narrative exposure therapy helps people identify their unique skills and strengths. Looking inside to discover oneself is an important step in the human experience. It’s difficult for the injured to understand their values, especially when they’ve already been violated. This therapy helps people get back on their original right paths.

Eye Movement Desensitization Therapy

The final recommended therapy involves asking the patient to recall disturbing images while using bilateral eye therapy (i.e. moving a pen from side to side while the patient focuses on it) to create calm.

Each of these therapies can be used in tangent with each other, so there’s no need to stick to one option. What’s important is to take the process in steps. A calming, isolated facility in nature can be beneficial before slowly reintroducing someone to the hustle of the rat race.

Putting First Responders First

First Responders First is a state-of-the-art substance abuse treatment facility that’s dedicated to first responders. Our professional staff understands treating the underlying issues that cause these negative behaviors is much more beneficial than putting bandages on the symptoms.

At First Responders First, these community heroes are handled with the care and compassion they deserve. Qualified and credentialed clinicians provide the full array of treatment options available in a relaxed, non-judgmental setting. This program gets first responders back on a healthy path to recovery by combining professional medical care with comfortable living arrangements and amenities for full-service healing.

Contact us today to take your first steps.