What is Critical Incident Stress?
Stress is an expected part of the emergency service profession and is routinely managed on a day-to-day basis. However, critical incident stress can produce reactions which may interfere with or overwhelm a person’s ability to function or cope either at the scene or later.
Critical incident stress is the body’s normal reaction to a very abnormal event.
How do I recognize Critical Incident Stress?
Critical incidents may produce a wide range of stress symptoms, which may appear immediately at the scene, a few hours later or within days of the incident. Stress symptoms usually occur in four different categories:
- Cognitive (thinking): Poor concentration, poor attention, slowed problem solving, memory problems and difficulty making decisions.
- Physical (body): Muscle tremors, headaches, elevated blood pressure, and gastro-intestinal distress.
- Emotional (feelings): Depression, guilt, loss of emotional control, irritability, grief, anxiety, fear, and feeling overwhelmed.
- Behavioral (actions): Withdrawal from contact, sleep disturbances, changes in eating and work habits, and excessive silence.
- Spiritual (faith and hope): Doubting your faith, feeling spiritually numb, questioning and/or blaming God, and wondering how God could allow these things to happen.
The longer the symptoms persist, the more potential there is for lasting harm.