In the last ten years, more attention has been paid to police officers and PTSD. PTSD was originally defined for soldiers returning from combat, but the definition has been expanded with increased research.
If you have been involved in a traumatic event at work, whether that event involved you being injured, you seeing a dead body or you hurting another human being, it could trigger symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. The name says it…stress occurring after the event. Symptoms include nightmares, flashbacks to the event, running the event over and over in your mind, insomnia, and others.
At the time of the incident, your brain is on overload. Your brain has signaled the alarm for combat, for flight or fight response to your body. You are super charged with adrenaline. You may have auditory exclusion. You may fire shots and not hear them. You may not hear commands being shouted nearby. You may have distortion of time and space. You may think a chase goes on forever when it is only a few seconds. You may sense that the perpetrator is very close when later, you notice that there are hundreds of yards between you. All of these symptoms are normal. Your body is doing it’s job to keep you safe. If you were not hyper vigilant when you are in danger, you wouldn’t live long.
Make no mistake, all of this is important. Being faced with your own mortality is a big deal. Killing or thinking you killed another human being (even if it is you or them) is a big deal. You may have symptoms like insomnia, not wanting to go to seep, tearfulness, nightmares, going over and over the event in your head or talking about it nonstop. These are all normal symptoms. You may not want to or be able to perform sexually. You may be over cautious with your children. You may get irritated with regular tasks at work. All of these symptoms are normal and will go away in a week or two. If these symptoms continue for more than a month or if you are troubled by them, ask for help. If you are uncomfortable, ask your chaplain for assistance. In most cases no medicine is ever needed. Some counseling sessions take care of the issues most of the time. It is good to talk to another person about the event on the same day, if possible, before you sleep. That is not always possible. It usually is a simple but necessary procedure to take that traumatic memory and move it from the center of your brain to a back shelf somewhere. You will always be changed by such an event, but you do not have to be scarred by it.