Saturday, March 29, 2014

Accepting a PTSD diagnosis

Today, guest author Daphne Holmes, shares her knowledge about PTSD in law enforcement. Daphne writes for and can be reached at

Recovering from Stress Disorders in Law Enforcement 

Stress disorders are commonly associated with individual traumatic events, which often occur in combat environments. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is seen when soldiers are witness to traumatic battlefield events, which leave them challenged to come to terms with their experiences.

The disorder continues to be explored as a combat condition; yielding answers for military men and women exposed to highly stressful environments. The same disorder is also seen among law enforcement personnel; a group of PTSD sufferers rising in numbers. PTSD is defined as an anxiety disorder resulting from a terrifying or traumatic event, where fear of harm is significant enough to carry lasting impacts for those experiencing the incident. PTSD also includes a component accounting for long-term exposure to particularly stressful conditions.

Law enforcement personnel frequently fit the profile for this type diagnosis. Severe emotional stress arising from years on the job creeps into daily life for peace officers succumbing to the disorder. Moving Forward Law enforcement personnel experiencing stress disorders show some of the same signs as others impacted by PTSD. Insomnia and lack of focus are key warning signs, especially when paired with recurring thoughts or nightmares about traumatic events or ongoing stress associated with police work. 
"When you can't forget the past"

The disorder manifests in social and occupational situations, taking its toll on careers as well as personal lives. Withdrawal, for example, is a common extension of PTSD. Sufferers tend to turn away from loved ones as well as losing interest in activities they once enjoyed. For fear of circumstances spiraling out of control, PTSD patients display tendencies to micro-manage life and fail to "stand down".

Operating in a state of constant alert causes physical and emotional distress over time - something all too familiar to peace officers working under heavy stress loads. Acceptance and Education Many PTSD patients share similar perceptions about the disorder. Initially, a PTSD diagnosis carries a negative stigma hard for some sufferers to reconcile with their roles as soldiers, police officers and emergency responders. Respected for their abilities to stand tall in the face of adversity, PTSD sufferers working in law enforcement carry the stigma of not being able to perform their job duties. Feeling "unfit" for service is a common by-product of PTSD, which actually gets in the way of managing the disorder.

Accepting a PTSD diagnosis is the first step toward resolving inner turmoil associated with the affliction. Education about the disorder and its impacts goes a long way helping law enforcement officers understand their own diagnosis, and assisting supporting personnel, who witness fellow officers grappling with the condition. Letting go of the stigma attached to PTSD is particularly important for law enforcement because the profession is based on trust and camaraderie among officers. Knowing they are not judged adversely by their departments or fellow personnel is an essential part of the healing process for officers recovering from stress disorders.

Turning the Corner Recovery is multi-faceted for PTSD sufferers, so each individual finds his or her own path to good health. Breaking down barriers of prejudice helps establish external support structures, but patients also use personal strategies to heal from within. Taking-on PTSD issues head-on moves recovery forward, but distractions furnish valuable paths to normalcy for law enforcement officers burdened with the disorder.

Hobbies, continuing education, and renewed focus on family dynamics are all used by peace officers to change their thinking about job-related stress. Exercise is another way to strengthen the internal mechanisms officers use to cope with PTSD adversity. Staying fit gives the body what it needs to overcome episodes of increased stress and to fortify officers' ability to process workplace anxiety.

Stress disorders are increasingly seen for the social and occupational tolls they take on law enforcement personnel. Peace officers exposed to stressful work environments are prone to PTSD, challenging them to move beyond limitations imposed by the disorder. Through internal and external support structures, law enforcement personnel release the stigma attached to PTSD and make strides toward recovery.

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