Paramedics and firefighters often have to deal with unpredictable situations that threaten both health and life. Observing the suffering of other people, including children, or the death of patients puts them under enormous stress and can be a serious burden on the psyche. That is why these professional groups particularly often face chronic stress, depression and other anxiety disorders. Extremely stressful events that exceed a person's ability to cope and adapt make 1 in 5 paramedics develop PTSD which means post-traumatic stress disorder. In this article I would like to draw attention to the symptoms and effects of stress, and suggest various forms of coping with it.

In connection with stress, our body undergoes a number of biochemical reactions leading to the release of such hormones as adrenaline or noradrenalinę called fight and flight hormones. As a result of their action, the blood vessels constrict so the blood pressure in the circulatory system increases. Another hormone is cortisol and it is associated with chronic stress. It increases the release of glucose from cells into the blood - which can lead to diabetes over time. The functions of the immune system are also weakened. Its ability to destroy viruses and bacteria is reduced. These are individual examples of the effects of chronic stress, which can be fatal on the human body. Headaches, high blood pressure and constant tiredness are often signs of it. There is also impatience, hostility to others, apathy and unwillingness to work. Stress can be accompanied by various physi-cal ailments:

  • problems falling asleep, insomnia - experiencing the situation of the day after going to bed or the fear of the next day at work
  • hair loss
  • calf cramps, eyelid tremor
  • excessive sweating during the day
  • bruxism (night gnashing of teeth due to jaw tension during sleep
  • Due to the intensity of symptoms and their duration (but not the intensity of the stress), we distinguish a simple stress response to trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). After the traumatic event, both the mind and body are in shock, so disorientation, fear or difficulty finding themselves are in fact something completely natural. It is also not surprising that most traumatized people initially have symptoms similar to those that have PTSD. Among them are; anxiety, constant thoughts about the past event and nightmares. In a situation of usual reaction to trauma, these symptoms may last for several weeks, but with the passage of time and the passing of emotions should disappear. When the above symptoms persist for over a month and affect the proper functioning of the individual in society, according to DSM IV classification, we can conclude post-traumatic stress disorder. Although the disease is variable, the typical symptoms of PTSD are: • anxiety tension, • feeling exhausted, feeling helpless, • recurrent, violent, involuntary memories of a traumatic event, • flashbacks or nightmares about subjects related to trauma, • avoiding situations associated with trauma.

    A sick person withdraws from reality, pessimistically thinks about his future and has a limited ability to show positive feelings. Despite being passive in everyday life, he still functions in a state of excessive arousal, hence problems with falling asleep, difficulty concentrating and dyspho-ria - exaggerating negative situations, which causes inadequate reactions. It happens that the onset of the disorder occurs after a period of latency, which can last from several weeks to several months. In some people, symptoms may persist for years and change into a permanent personality change, however in most cases they can be expected to subside. The usual response to trauma, despite having similar symptoms, lasts no more than 4 weeks. How do you deal with chronic stress? Well, to relax and calm down there are several ways. For example, by practicing regular physical activity, we increase the body's resistance to stress, remove muscle tension, and relax the mind. Working muscles accelerate the metabolism of adrenaline, noradrenaline and cortisol. Physical exercises make you feel better because they cause endorphin synthesis called happiness hormones. They improve the mood, reduce the feeling of anxiety and depression and ensure deeper sleep. Relaxation exercises are another way to fight stress. Slow, deep, diaphragmatic breaths, meditation, hot bath are also great ways to regain peace and balance. However, if such methods are not enough - a person does not cope with everyday life, they are overwhelmed by their duties - an urgent need to contact a specialist. Psychologists and psychiatrists offer professional support and specialist therapy. Currently, PTSD treatment focuses on dealing with trauma as experience, which helps restore a sense of control and reduce its impact on life. The sooner treatment is started, the better, because PTSD may get worse. Recovery can be a gradual and long process. Support from other people is very important, and unfortunately often underestimated. Therefore, do not be afraid to talk or ask for help from relatives in difficult times. The worst solution is to escape into any stimulants, because they give only a temporary illusion of no problem. They are addictive physically and emotionally. They damage the body but also negatively affect relationships in the family and at work. In the long run, alcohol and drugs can even exacerbate PTSD symptoms. Anyone who suspects that they are affected by an alcohol problem can find a list of advice centers offering free help at

    Summing up, rescuers and firefighters should be aware and be able to recognize the symptoms of stress. Each rescuer is required to perform his tasks as best he can, and physical and mental well-being allows him to do so. The fact that a person experiences strongly negative emo-tions every day and cannot free himself from images associated with tragic events, affects his behavior, functioning, thought processes, change of life values and even physiological mechanisms. Therefore, whenever possible, you should practice various relaxation techniques yourself or, if they are not effective, seek the help of a specialist.

    • European Funds - Smart Growth
    • Republic of Poland
    • European Union - European Regional Development Fund
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