Researching the topic of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder for SilverHart, an academic article provides an excellent description of the effects of PTSD.
More than any other occupation, law enforcement is an emotionally and physically dangerous job.
Police officers continuously face the effects of murder, violence, rape, child abuse, accidents and disasters. Long hours, rotating shifts and constant exposure to tragedy exacts a heavy toll on police officers and their families.
The results are alarming: Alcoholism, divorce, domestic violence, heart attacks, cancer, depression and suicide. Law Enforcement, the media, and the public all foster the myth that police officers can experience trauma and violence on a daily basis without any ill effects.
Research has shown just the opposite. When stressors are prolonged and overwhelming, a person’s ability to cope becomes diminished.
Police officers, by the very nature of their jobs are exposed to more stress and trauma in one day than most people will experience in a considerable amount of time. Maybe even their entire lives.
Some police officers thrive on stress. They seek out incidents that most people would not care to encounter in their lifetime. Many people seek out a job in law enforcement for this challenge and the personal rewards it can provide.
Overcoming stress of great magnitude can provide great personal rewards, but these jobs can and frequently do ruin many lives. We have all no doubt heard of police burnout.
Usually police officers experience burnout after about eight to ten years of experience. After many years of seeing things on a daily basis that would make most people cringe, police officers begin to feel numb and feel that they have seen it all.
Nothing seems to affect them anymore. Their work and their attitude toward police work may suffer. Morale goes down and sometimes police officers relieve their stress by becoming increasingly violent toward citizens, suspects and even their own families.
An otherwise excellent officer, one who has never had any complaints, may suddenly be the subject of many citizen complaints.
Besides the long hours spent on the job, many police officers have to work second and sometimes third jobs to support their families and supplement their mediocre income.
Police suicide has also become a significant problem. An officer who is experiencing personal or financial problems, alcohol or drug addiction, a recent divorce or breakup of a relationship, exposure to a work related trauma, or the recent use of deadly force, may feel that there is no other way to cope with their feelings and make the choice to end it all.
Reference: Brown, PG, 11-07-13. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in Law Enforcement, Criminal Justice Institute, School of Law Enforcement Supervision,