Psychiatrists Discuss Chronic Stress, Trauma Officers Face and Effect on Families Involved

Psychiatrists Discuss Chronic Stress, Trauma Officers Face and Effect on Families Involved

By Alicia Neaves

NewsWest 9

There is no doubt being a police officer is a tough job. They see things most of us don't, such as death, trauma and violence. Dealing with it can leave a lasting mark.

Experts say these marks all stem from chronic stress which could lead to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder but the tragic situations that may come of it can be prevented.

Psychiatrists tell NewsWest 9 that law enforcement officers are often reluctant to seek help in fear of being stuck at a desk or maybe stripped of certain privileges.

But the first step towards a diagnosis, or simply stress relief, is a little open communication.

The everyday exposure to stressful situations or constantly being on alert can lead to post traumatic stress symptoms.

"Having vivid nightmares, re-living the situation, particularly being prompted or brought on by loud sounds or flashes of light or even as minor as someone coming and tapping them on the shoulder from behind," Dr. Bobby Jain, Psychiatrist/Associate Professor and Regional Chair at Texas Tech Health Science Center at the Permian Basin, said.

Many might think officers are immune to these every day traumas. Unfortunately, that's not the case.

"Law enforcement folks tend to have high rates of domestic violence, high rates of divorces and high rates of unsatisfaction with their personal lives. So they pay a price for that but they don't realize that this is directly connected to what kind of work they do," Jain said.

Doctors say the symptoms of chronic stress, which could lead to PTSD, can be spotted early by keeping an eye out for the symptoms.

"Having trouble with aches and pains in the body, not able to sleep, not able to relax, not able to enjoy things," Jain said.

The effects of chronic stress aren't just mental. When PTSD episodes happen, they also take an extreme toll on the families involved.

It's not just those who have a family history of psychological disorders, or men or women in particular who are affected, anyone and everyone is susceptible to PTSD.

"The most gallant one, the most feeble-minded, the most wonderful section of society. They are all vulnerable to the development of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder," Jain said.

The doctors dosage? The encouragement and implementation of open communication at work and at home.