What is Trauma?

Trauma can mean different things to different people. You, as law enforcement officers, are exposed to traumatic situations on a regular basis. At any given time, roughly 30% of law enforcement officers are suffering from symptoms or meet the full criteria for a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).14 Police officers who experience traumatic incidents are also more likely to suffer from anxiety and depression.15 Generally, trauma can result from experiencing an event that involves:

Different Reactions to Trauma17

Reaction to Trauma

You may react differently to traumatic events than others; and reactions can manifest themselves in a number of ways.17 Some victims of trauma experience only minimal reactions, including minor changes in sleep or appetite. Others encounter more distressing effects, like Acute Stress Disorder and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).18,19 Still others may push through the trauma aftermath to achieve resilience and recovery.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, “while most but not all traumatized people experience short term symptoms, the majority do not develop ongoing (chronic) PTSD.20

overwiew of ptsd


The type of events that can trigger trauma can range from natural disasters, acts of terrorism, motor vehicle accidents, or crowd management, among others.16


The four categories of symptoms that an individual will experience when suffering from PTSD include re-experiencing, avoidance, arousal and reactivity, and cognition and mood. Signs and symptoms of PTSD may not occur for weeks or even months after the traumatic incident takes place.20


Individuals with PTSD can seek treatment through medication options, psychotherapy (which can include exposure therapy, cognitive restructuring, and/or talk therapy), or a combination of these techniques.20

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