Dealing with trauma daily: First responders need help too

October 03, 2017

This post was created in partnership with BetterHelp. As a BetterHelp affiliate, we may receive compensation from BetterHelp if you purchase products or services through the links provided on this page.


Those who find themselves in situations like the Las Vegas shooting or other traumatic situations will need extensive therapy for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). But, what about the people who come to help the victims or clean up the site afterward? First responders such as police officers, ambulance drivers, paramedics, doctors, and nurses see more traumatic situations than the normal average human being. Of course, these people are not normal humans. It takes a special kind of person to rush in and help those in these and other dangerous situations. However, they are still human like the rest of the world and need to be treated by a therapist once in a while.

What Does Trauma Do to Those Who Help?

Those people who work with trauma every day are extraordinary folks but they need help just like the rest of the population. Seeing the devastation left by natural disasters as well as the death and destruction done by terrorists and other humans leaves traumatic memories for everyone who witness them. It does not matter if you are a paramedic or doctor who has been on the job for many years or just someone who volunteers to help in a crisis. Everyone is human and those memories, left untreated, can cause serious damage that is invisible to the naked eye.

What is PTSD?

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a condition caused by witnessing serious trauma and life-threatening events such as earthquakes, tornados, floods, terrorist attacks, mass shootings, physical, and even mental abuse. In some situations, the individual may be able to destress by talking about it with others and end up not needing therapy. Those in the medical field who deal with these things may develop complex PTSD, which is from prolonged exposure. However, most people who go through these traumatic experiences will develop serious side effects that need to be addressed. Some of these side effects include:

  • Nightmares or night terrors
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Depression
  • Chronic pain such as headaches, body aches, nausea
  • Flashbacks
  • Extreme irritability or episodes of anger
  • Feelings of guilt, shame, fear, and hopelessness
  • Avoiding people
  • Lack of interest in activities usually enjoyed
  • Insomnia
  • Appetite loss
  • Nervousness
  • Constant negative memories
  • Thoughts of harming yourself or others

Medical Students

As a medical student, you are more likely to find yourself in situations like this as you start your rotations and realize you do not know what to do with these feelings. When working to help heal others we sometimes forget about taking care of ourselves, and that can be a huge mistake. Not only can this be bad for us, but it can affect our patients as well. You cannot expect to be able to take care of other people if you are not well yourself. PTSD is not a thing to take lightly and even If you think you have everything under control, chances are pretty good that you do not. And, talking to someone cannot hurt anything no matter what. So, you should talk to a therapist as soon as possible if you have any of the above signs of PTSD. In fact, even if you do not think you have any of these issues but you have been through a traumatic situation lately, talking to someone is a good idea.

How to Find a Therapist Near You

If you are a medical student, you are probably way too busy to find your shoes, let alone look for a therapist, right? Let BetterHelp.com find someone for you. All you have to do is spend about three minutes answering a few questions and they will come up with some therapists in your area. And, if none are close enough or you do not have time to make an appointment, you can try online therapy. You can do this from the comfort of your own home or wherever else you happen to be at the time. Give it a try right now, it certainly cannot hurt anything and it may prove to be a big help.


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As a BetterHelp affiliate, we may receive compensation from BetterHelp if you purchase products or services through the links provided on this page.