Examples of Symptoms and Treatment of PTSD

image of law enforcement officers and fire fighters

Photos by Jim Macmillan, Philadelphia Daily News


Example One:  Male Law Enforcement Officer---Job-Related Trauma

A wife’s perspective of her law enforcement officer husband’s behavior after he had been through a critical incident at work in which four people drowned (two divers and two EMT’s).  In this officer’s attempts to rescue these individuals, he believed he would die.  The partner who accompanied him during the rescue attempts had panicked, and, as a result, he had to rescue her from drowning.  An officer from the fire department accused this officer of being responsible for the deaths of his men, although he later apologized for doing so.  The traumatizing event happened two years prior to his receiving Multi Sensory Trauma Processing (MTP).  The symptoms described were eliminated after two treatment sessions.  Because he was attending the National Academy at Quantico, this officer had been away from home for several weeks.  His wife came to visit him at the Academy three weeks after his two treatment sessions. During an interview that took place during her visit, she described the changes she had observed in her husband following the traumatic incident.  This couple had been married for eleven years.  Both granted permission to use their experiences to educate other law enforcement officers experiencing symptoms following exposure to job-related traumatic incident.

The Wife’s Perspective:

“His face lost feeling.  He stopped laughing (restricted range of affect; feelings of detachment).

“His breathing changed when he was driving, sometimes it kind of bubbled when he breathed out, or he would breathe in a very shallow way (shallow breathing is a sign of stress).

“His speech was choppy; he would say three words and pause, three more words and pause (difficulty concentrating).

“He stopped playing with the kids.  He had roughhoused and tumbled with them, and he stopped.  He became intolerant, focused and single-minded.  We had shared picking up our son from private school, but I got so I didn’t call him to pick him up, because he seemed “put off’ (irritability) and I was afraid that he would be that way with our son.  I started having our neighbor pick him up.  I thought ‘I’ve lost him for a life time’.  My kids just responded like he was dead.  I told them that their daddy had been through something that had hurt his heart so much that it had changed him (restricted range of affect; diminished participation in significant activities).

“He had lots of trouble sleeping.  The first month, he had a lot of nightmares (distressing dreams).  Since then, he yelled out and was frantic in bed, about once a month and he jerked in his sleep, especially in his legs.  If I tried to wake him up to stop the nightmare, or bumped him in his sleep, he was instantly and loudly awake.  If he fell asleep on the floor, I could not wake him up gradually...he startled awake. (Problems of arousal, problems sleeping, hypervigilence, flashbacks).