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Key Signs of PTSD in First Responders

First responders witness traumatic events more often than the average person. It’s part of the job description. But does that mean they’re less likely to develop PTSD? Exposure to traumatic events should make them easier to witness, right?

Well, not really. In fact, first responders are more likely to develop PTSD than the average person. Of course, not everyone who experiences or witnesses a traumatic event will develop PTSD, but a lot of people do.

If you’re a first responder, and you suspect you might be dealing with PTSD, you’re going to want to know what the key signs are.


First responders with PTSD will often avoid remembering the traumatic events they’ve lived through. What this means, in practice, is that you won’t talk about it with trusted friends or family. You might even refuse to talk to a counselor. It’s possible you will even distance yourself from your friends and family altogether.

You’ll do your best to avoid any reminder of the event, whether it’s talking about it with someone or driving past a specific street or seeing a person who reminds you of it all.

Intrusive Memories

A key sign of PTSD is the presence of intrusive thoughts surrounding the traumatic event. This can happen in many forms. You may experience unwanted memories, sometimes so vivid they become flashbacks. It can be distressing to face those, especially if they take you by surprise.

These intrusive memories can also appear in the form of nightmares: a modified version of the traumatic memory that occurs in dreams. They can appear at any moment, at any time of the day, and they won’t come with any warnings.

Sleep Difficulties

Unfortunately, nightmares of the event aren’t the only ways in which your sleep might be affected. You might also struggle to fall asleep at night. Or maybe you manage to fall asleep just fine, but it’s staying asleep that you find difficult. Maybe you wake up in the middle of the night, and you can’t go back to sleep after that.

Either way, it’s common to have trouble sleeping if you struggle with PSTD. Whatever form that takes doesn’t matter. When the next day begins, you’ll find yourself exhausted, regardless. And exhaustion only makes PTSD harder to cope with.

Different Reactions

PTSD can change how you react to things. You’ll feel more on edge than usual, always checking your surroundings for threats. You’ll be easily startled, more than you used to be. You may also find it hard to concentrate.

It’s possible you’ll also engage in reckless, self-destructive behavior. This can be anything from drinking alcohol more often than you used to, to driving recklessly, to doing your job in a way that puts you in more danger than necessary.

Changes in Mood

After a traumatic event, it’s possible that you find yourself feeling different. Depending on what you went through, you might find yourself experiencing intense guilt and shame over what happened, maybe even horror or fear.

You might also be irritable, quicker to anger. This might be what the people around you notice the most, particularly if you keep most of your struggles hidden.

Dealing with PTSD

PTSD is a difficult thing to deal with, especially for people like first responders who are more likely to witness horrifying things on the job. This is nothing to be ashamed of. At most, it’s a sign that you need a little help, and that’s okay. We all need help sometimes.

We’re here to provide you with the help you need. So, if you recognize these signs, if you think PTSD might be a problem you’re dealing with, then don’t hesitate to make an appointment for trauma therapy. You will get past this. All it takes is getting the right kind of help.