Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a big problem in the emergency services profession. Any emergency responder can suffer from PTSD. It doesn't matter how long the person has been on the job or the types of calls they've been on; PTSD can affect anyone working in the emergency services profession in different ways. It's important for the spouses of firefighters, and other emergency responders, to know the signs of PTSD.
The Glass Test
The glass test is a great way to determine if your firefighter spouse is dealing with PTSD in various forms. A person who is not suffering from PTSD will begin their day with an empty glass that begins to fill throughout the day due to various issues or frustrations before the water spills over the edge.
A person with PTSD will typically begin their day with a glass that is three-quarters of the way full. Keep an eye on your spouse during one of their days off and see how quickly their glass overflows and what stresses cause it to do so. Take note of how they show their frustration too (crying, yelling, anger, storming out of a room and more).
The Numbness Vortex
The numbness vortex is an important sign to keep an eye on with a spouse who is a firefighter or other first responder. PTSD causes this vortex that is very difficult to break. The vortex occurs when your spouse returns from work and separates him or herself from the family. Whenever approached by a family member they utter a phrase such as "I'm fried" or "what a day."
You can test the waters of the vortex by trying to speak to your spouse. They will likely be staring at the TV or their tablet. If they don't ignore you completely, then the issue is not as bad as it could be. If they turn away from you without saying a word, PTSD is present and you need to get your spouse help immediately.
The "Used To" Syndrome
The "used to" syndrome is another sign of PTSD. How many times during the day does your spouse tout the phrase "I used to?" You need to keep a count of this phrase. It will likely appear in many of the following ways:
I used to fish
I used to hunt
I used to read
I used to restore cars
I used to read to the kids
I used to exercise
I used to go to the ballgame
I used to play with the kids
I used to walk the dog
Returning to Life as a Teenager
PTSD can often cause people to return to what life was like as a teenager. This is known as the "Whatever Wasteland." If your spouse fails to make decisions on their days off, tells you to "surprise me," or fails to take responsibility; you have a big problem on your hands. Try to take note of each time your spouse takes the lead at home over the span of one week. If you cannot get an adult-like response from your spouse, or they resort to silence, you need to seek help immediately. It is a cry for help.
This list is not an exhaustive one when it comes to signs of PTSD. If you have even the slightest inkling that your firefighter spouse is suffering from PTSD you should contact a doctor for more information before it is too late.
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