Overview of the Problem
Exposure to adverse incidents and potentially traumatic situations and events is common in military service and law enforcement, which in this text refers to police officers. Among military personnel, combat experience is a significant risk factor for the exhibition and development of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), as war veterans manifest disproportionately high rates of mental condition (Lautieri, 2022). Equally important, law enforcement officers encounter severe direct threats and stressful events coupled with the continuous anticipation of risk, which may affect their mental health. In addition to these incidents, military personnel and police officers often see the suffering of others first-hand, including victims of crime (Papazoglou et al., 2020). This resource book provides ways and mechanisms for the two disciplines and populations to address and eliminate the issue more effectively.
Understanding Veterans with PTSD
Due to the nature of their service, servicemen and women face significant challenges after leaving duty and attempting to readjust to civilian life. Lautieri (2022) states that these problems include finding ways and mechanisms to re-establish their roles within their families and society and the thought of finding and committing to a well-paying civilian job.
However, oftentimes, soldiers return home with significant mental health issues, particularly PTSD. According to Xue et al. (2015), the occurrence and prevalence of PTSD among military personnel ranges from approximately 1.09% to a disturbing 34.84%. Papazoglou et al. (2020) demonstrate that 12.9% of 5,826 United States veterans received a PTSD diagnosis in 2017, an exceptionally high rate compared to the cases of the health condition among the general population. More precisely, only 6.8% of the United States population are likely to exhibit PTSD in their lifetimes.
Statistics show how much of a problem PTSD is in the military and emphasize the need for a better understanding of the issue. Xue et al. (2015) state that living with PTSD requires that veterans understand its significant symptoms and risk factors. Therefore, some of the symptoms of PTSD among this population include intrusive thoughts and dreams, intentional and unconscious avoidance of things that remind them of the traumatic events, and changes in mood and cognition (Lautieri, 2022).
On the other hand, one should be able to identify significant risk factors such as witnessing injury or death, exposure to excessive stressors, and level of education. In addition, it is pertinent that one understands that there are specific post-deployment risk factors that might affect the severity of a veteran’s PTSD. Price et al. (2018) state that social support is one of these facilitators. The higher the level of support offered to a veteran by their families and friends, the higher their self-reliance and ability to manage the condition more effectively.
Understanding Police Officers with PTSD
Law enforcement officers, or police officers, deal with several severe direct threats and stressful situations in their daily commitments. As mentioned in the text’s introduction section, Lautieri (2022) supports the notion that police officers are often the primary first responders at a crime scene and witness and experience the suffering of others, specifically victims of crime. As Papazoglou et al. (2020) posit, police officers with PTSD report that they exhibit high levels of hyperarousal, lack of job satisfaction due to the negative thoughts and activities related to their professions, inadequate hobbies, and lack of a reliable social support system.
Javanbakht (2022) demonstrates that police officers witness trauma from their constant exposure to violent crimes, serious accidents, and the aftermath of adverse situations. One study shows that 80% of law enforcement personnel report seeing dead bodies or severely injured and assaulted victims within the past year. Papazoglou et al. (2020) add that roughly 15% of police officers in the United States experience various symptoms of the mental condition.
Numerous law enforcement officers manifest the conventional indications of PTSD, including the constant inability to sleep, intrusive thoughts and flashbacks, nightmares, and sudden physical reactions to the things or places associated with the traumatic event. Javanbakht (2022), an associate professor of psychiatry at Wayne State University, states that the far-reaching impact of PTSD among police officers extends to initiating or worsening their depression, anxiety, and suicide. As a matter of fact, Lautieri (2022) states that more law enforcement officers and firefighters die by suicide and that the cases of suicide deaths are rapidly increasing. Moreover, the professional working environment of police officers plays an integral role in elevating the risk of PTSD. For instance, one is likely to develop a more severe mental issue if they work in a dysfunctional organization with unclear roles, malfunctioning equipment, and a place rich in discrimination (Papazoglou et al., 2020). While many officers might not meet the criteria for PTSD, they exhibit and suffer from symptoms close to the condition.
Helping Veterans and Police Officers with PTSD: Effective Approaches
This resource book emphasizes obtaining more information and educating oneself about PTSD in high-risk professions such as military and police work. Thankfully, several evidence-based forms of mental health care are designed to aid veterans and police officers in treating and coping with PTSD. Collazo (2020) suggests that psychotherapy is the most practical and effective method of treating PTSD and even more effective when coupled with talk therapy mechanisms. The American Psychological Association (2022) strongly recommends specific psychotherapy treatment options for the condition. These approaches include:
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): This component of psychotherapy would help veterans and police officers focus on their feelings, thoughts, and actions and how they affect their decisions and those of others. CBT aims to modify existing thoughts, emotions, and behaviors and create a new, advanced way of looking at problematic traumatic experiences and related situations. Javanbakht (2022) asserts that this method comprises significant adaptive ways of coping with stress and freeing one’s mind from bad memories.
- The two populations should utilize CBT as it notes how a slight shift in one domain can enhance an individual’s functioning in other aspects. They should adopt this 12-16 session program either personally or in a group to learn new behaviors and to better regulate their feelings.
- Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT): Veterans and police officers can use this modality to develop new and more beneficial comprehension of the traumatic experiences that affect their lives negatively. The American Psychological Association (2022) states that over 12 sessions, a healthcare professional would engage the veterans and police officers in a critical self-reflection process that enables them to unlearn, modify, and eliminate unhelpful beliefs related to the traumatic event. In doing so, the patient assigns a new understanding and conceptualization to the situation to minimize its ongoing impacts on the person’s daily life. Monson et al. (2014) and other studies report on the success of this approach, adding that it is specifically meant for the population under review.
- Prolonged Exposure (PE): This approach typically runs for about three months, yielding a total of approximately 8 to 15 sessions. In this method, the therapist will begin by assessing the veteran and the police officers’ past experiences before providing reliable psychoeducation that centers on teaching the client how to manage anxiety using a breathing technique. Monson et al. (2014) demonstrate that since this approach is significantly thought and anxiety-provoking, the patient should be prepared to relive portions of the traumatic experiences. The method takes two techniques; imaginal exposure and in vivo exposure. While imaginal exposure would allow the veterans and police officers to get into the event’s details, in vivo exposure would enable them to identify, confront, and challenge the feared stimuli. Prolonged exposure encourages patients to develop a new perception of the specified emotion.
The elements of the professions of military personnel and law enforcement police officers are often overlooked, even with the clarity of the notion that they cause PTSD. However, this resource book recognizes the context of the two populations and shows that it is essential to understand the problem before seeking ways to address it. The text utilizes credible scholarly sources to describe concepts and statistics associated with PTSD among veterans and police officers. It also offers a dependable insight into how CBT, CPT, and PE could help the victims of the condition challenge better comprehend their thoughts, attitudes, and behaviors. The resource book is a relevant tool for veterans and police officers and their social support systems as it finds common ground and provides evidence-based approaches to addressing the issue.
- American Psychological Association. (2022). Treatments for PTSD. American Psychological Association.
- Collazo, J. (2020). Adapting trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy to treat complex
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- Javanbakht, A. (2022, May 11). The Aching Blue: Trauma, stress and invisible wounds of those
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- Lautieri, A. (2022, May 4). 7 high-risk professions that can lead to PTSD. Desert Hope.
- Monson, C. M., Resick, P. A., & Rizvi, S. L. (2014). Posttraumatic stress disorder. In D. H.
- Barlow (Ed.), Clinical handbook of psychological disorders (5th ed. pp 80-113). Guilford Press.
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- & Koskelainen, M. (2020). The role of moral injury in PTSD among law enforcement officers: A brief report. Frontiers in psychology, 11, 310.
- Price, M., Lancaster, C. L., Gros, D. F., Legrand, A. C., van Stolk-Cooke, K., & Acierno, R.
- (2018). An examination of social support and PTSD treatment response during prolonged exposure. Psychiatry, 81(3), 258-270.
- Xue, C., Ge, Y., Tang, B., Liu, Y., Kang, P., Wang, M., & Zhang, L. (2015). A meta-analysis of
- risk factors for combat-related PTSD among military personnel and veterans. PloS one, 10(3), e0120270.