Job-Related Trauma and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

banner image of firefighters and law enforcement officers

Photos by Jim Macmillan, Philadelphia Daily News


When memories of dangerous situations that happened in the past elicit feelings, body sensations and thoughts similar to those experienced when really in danger, your body is trying to keep you safe from harm…however, the system that should be protecting you can become the problem when it doesn’t know when to turn on and off.  


Because survival is so important, nature also wants to ensure that the traumatic incident or the survival threat is remembered because this will increase survival because in order to embrace one self’s against future attack by similar attackers or whatever.  Sometimes nature cannot program into a human every possible traumatic situation, therefore, the brain is set up to record the traumas that actually happen and imprint them in the memory in a protective way.  The memory of the trauma is often very vivid and illicit; feelings, thoughts, body sensations, and other reactions very similar to those experienced when the trauma actually occurred.  Furthermore, nature in its further attempt to protect and to make sure this memory stays protected links the memory to things associated with the trauma.  Associated things when experienced survive the trauma memories in order so that nature believes that if you remember this you will have learned from it and you will avoid it.  Nature, however, over associate’s symbols and reminders of the trauma, causing the trauma memory to be triggered by links which are really neutral


Threats to the survival of a child, family members, close friends and work buddies involving exposure to danger, injury or death can lead to PTSD symptoms…their bodies continue to leave their survival response in the “on” position.


Furthermore, when the survival or safety of their child is threatened or their child is critically injured or killed, a parent often develops PTSD in the same way he or she would had they been the victim.  Nature understands that children require protection from adults if they are to survive, therefore adults often respond to the traumas experienced by their child as if they were their own.  Many humans also respond as if their body is being attacked when the safety of any child is threatened, especially if they are parents.   Nature seems to make sure we care about and protect children, even when they are not our own.


Furthermore, PTSD symptoms are common when family members, close friends and work buddies are exposed to danger, hurt or killed.  Perhaps nature understands that being surrounded by people who care about our safety is protective, so that when the safety of these people is threatened, so is ours.  Again, the body’s response to traumas and threats to survival has been designed to protect us. 


Children growing up in violent and/or abusive environments have brains which develop to protect them and their bodies are in a constant survival state.


If a child lives in a violent and/or abusive environment where he or she is constantly beaten or attacked or is a witness to violence, their bodies also respond to protect them.  Their survival responses becomes frozen or stuck in the “on” position.  These children know the world is not safe.  Their brains and bodies even develop in a “use-dependent” way to protect them…the part of their brain which observes and responds to their environment becomes stronger than the part that thinks and reasons.