First responders include police officers, firefighters, EMTs, paramedics, dispatchers and others who assume the role of being on the front line of emergency situations. Unless an individual is in a crisis, it’s easy to take these services for granted. Little thought is given to how working through these high-stress and heartbreaking situations affects those on the job.
For the average person, dangerous situations such as car accidents, serious injuries and house fires are rare occurrences. For first responders, these worst-case scenarios are everyday realities that must be faced on a regular basis.
Unfortunately, these emergency situations take a toll on first responders. According to a 2018 supplemental research bulletin from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s Disaster Technical Assistance Center, about three in 10 first responders live with depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). This is compared to two out of 10 members of the general population.
What Happens When PTSD and Depression Go Untreated?
To combat these mental health conditions, many first responders turn to substance use. Within 30 days prior to being surveyed, 50% of male firefighters reported at least one episode of binge or heavy drinking. Of female firefighters, who make up just 5% of the total number of firefighters, 83% had tried smoking and 22% were currently smoking. This is compared to 18% of women in the general population. Nearly 90% reported drinking alcohol in the past month, 61% reported heavy drinking and 40% reported binge drinking.
Suicide is also more common among first responders. In a small 2015 study of 1,027 firefighters, 47% of them had thought about suicide, nearly 20% had suicide plans and 16% had attempted suicide. Among police officers, about one in four have considered suicide. By contrast, of the general population, 14% of people have suicidal thoughts, 4% have a suicide plan and 5% have attempted suicide.
Working as a first responder requires a great deal of strength. For many, the strength that allows them to tackle everyone else’s worst-case scenario can also be a significant roadblock to getting much-needed mental health treatment. Some worry about how seeking mental health care may impact their job security, afraid that admitting to struggles with depression, anxiety and PTSD may affect how their colleagues and supervisors interact with them. They may also worry that job opportunities may be limited as a result of seeking treatment.
The good news is that neurotherapy provides a technologically advanced, research-based way to retrain the brain. This remarkable counseling tool empowers clients to take control of how their brains respond to potentially traumatic events. It helps the central nervous system achieve calm and learn a more regulated, efficient way to function and solve problems.
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How Many First Responders Struggle with and PTSD?
First responders, such as police officers, firefighters and ambulance workers, are at higher risk for PTSD due to the nature of their jobs. They’re regularly exposed to traumatic events, such as car accidents, violence and natural disasters. Studies have shown that more than 80% of first responders experience at least one traumatic event during their careers.
Repeated exposure to trauma can lead to post-traumatic stress disorder. PTSD symptoms include flashbacks, night terrors, anxiety, depression and avoidance of people and places associated with the trauma. PTSD can have a profound impact on first responders, making it difficult for them to do their jobs and leading to strained relationships with family and friends.
Incidences of PTSD can make it difficult — even impossible — for first responders to continue doing their job properly. Expecting to be able to help others in crisis when experiencing a crisis of your own is unreasonable. It’s too much to expect of anybody.
If you or someone you know is a first responder who’s experienced a seriously traumatic event, it’s important to seek help from a mental health professional. Luckily, PTSD is a treatable condition, and there are many resources available to help first responders manage their symptoms and live a healthy life.
What Is Neurotherapy?
Neurotherapy is a broad term that encompasses several different types of treatment, including neurostimulation and neurofeedback. These treatment types aim to retrain the brain by developing new cognitive skills and by increasing cognitive performance.
This type of treatment is based on the idea that physiological functioning is responsible for how the individual thinks, feels and behaves. When the brain gets stuck in a pattern of maladjustment, problems like anxiety and depression arise. In some cases, these patterns are learned behaviors — the body may be conditioned to react in a certain way to stressful situations.
Neurotherapy provides the opportunity for new learning, allowing the brain to create new pathways that result in more constructive cognition. This treatment is painless and non-invasive, and its benefits last beyond treatment sessions.
How Does Neurotherapy Help First Responders?
Neurotherapy is an increasingly popular treatment option for first responders living with conditions like depression and PTSD. Through quantitative electroencephalography, or EEG, a medical professional uses brain-imaging technology to identify areas of the brain that have deregulated activity.
After this analysis, the individual begins neurofeedback training. For first responders, the treatment may target symptoms like mood problems, addiction, anxiety and PTSD. After targeting the affected brain areas, neurofeedback training can guide these areas to behave “normally.”
Through this process, the brain learns to regulate itself and correct unhelpful habits and patterns. When it corrects error via feedback, it’s rewarded through a movie or another on-screen stimulus. When it doesn’t function as desired, the visual stimulus doesn’t play or another error-indicating stimulus is played. Over time, this training makes the brain more stable.
Neurofeedback is a learning process. Those who go through this treatment to address job-related PTSD, anxiety and depression learn how to control their brain activity in the same way they learn any other skill. Just as reading, writing, speaking and eating are learned through consistent practice, first responders learn how to control their neurological processes through feedback, patience and exercise.
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What Are Benefits of Measuring Brain Activity in Neurofeedback Treatment for PTSD?
Neurotherapy, also known as neurofeedback, is a type of therapy that uses real-time feedback to help regulate brain activity. Neurotherapy has been shown to be effective in treating conditions like ADHD, anxiety and depression. It’s also being used more and more to help treat PTSD. While the exact mechanisms of how neurotherapy works are still not fully understood, it’s thought that the feedback helps retrain the brain to function more normally. There’s a growing body of evidence that supports the use of neurotherapy, and it’s becoming an increasingly popular treatment option.
Measuring your brain activity allows you to:
- Identify maladaptive cognition
- Track progress of treatment
- Understand how the brain works
- Avoid factors that reduce brain health
- Monitor your oath to recovery
Engaging in a neurotherapy treatment program means getting firsthand experience with state-of-the-art neurological technology and overcoming your trauma. FHE Health offers effective neurofeedback treatment plans for first responders seeking to overcome trauma.
What Are Benefits of Neurofeedback Therapy for First Responders?
First responders encounter many barriers that discourage them from getting help. Stigma is a persistent issue for those living with PTSD, depression and anxiety. Many believe their mental health isn’t important and is a sign of weakness.
Fortunately, there’s been a surge in prevention and education efforts by support organizations on behalf of firefighters, first responders and veterans. We’re becoming increasingly aware that while most people live with a mental health condition at some point in their lives, first responders have higher levels of mental health issues and suicidal thoughts.
While first responders may not be able to change the unknown traumatic situations they have to face on a regular basis, through neurotherapy, they can recover and cope in a healthy, productive way. The results are measurable, and progress is easily tracked.
In short, neurotherapy helps first responders live more fulfilling lives. Positive effects of neurofeedback treatment include:
- Panic and anxiety management
- Building emotional resilience
- Improving mood, concentration, focus and attention
- Improving learning and cognitive performance
- Boosting motivation and energy
- Learning to manage addictions, destructive habits and cravings
Who Provides Neurotherapy Services?
For first responders living with PTSD, depression or anxiety, recovery is possible with high-quality, comprehensive care. At FHE Health, we offer neurotherapy as part of our holistic approach to mental health care. We understand the unique needs and challenges first responders face and provide specialized treatment for firefighters, law enforcement officers, dispatchers and EMTs. Our neurofeedback treatments are tailored to first responders’ individual needs and align with not only the unique nature of emergency responders’ experiences but also their culture and values.
PTSD can be debilitating and is rarely resolved on its own. By reaching out for help, first responders can enjoy a better quality of life and prolong their careers. If you or someone you know is a first responder suffering from PTSD, call us today at (833) 591-1578. Our team of psychologically trained professionals is standing by for your call.