Cumulative Career Traumatic Stress: Law Enforcement

Stress among police officers is a common problem that does not have a certain solution. As a rule, stress promotes the increase of mental health illnesses (Conn & Butterfield, 2013). One of these problems is known as cumulative career traumatic stress (CCTS). This disorder is usually observed among officers and characterized by similar to post-traumatic stress disorder’s symptoms resulted in their constant exposure to traumatic events and stressful activities.

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In comparison to PTSD, this type is defined as cumulative due to the nature of duties that have to be performed by police officers, including highway accidents, domestic disputes, child abuse, and crimes against the elderly (Swanson, Territo, & Taylor, 2016). To see death is some kind of daily activity for many officers, and it is hard to predict the level of risk such events may cause. The symptoms of CCTS are complex. Many people call this disorder as a silent killer because its signs may be ignored for a long period and discovered when it is too late (“Cumulative PTSD,” n.d.). Some unpleasant and dangerous events happen to police officers, and they accept them as a normal part of their job and forget about it with time without even thinking about possible outcomes and effects of emotions and mental health.

Law enforcement on police jobs and during retirement is the field that undergoes certain changes due to this type of stress. For example, when police officers have to complete their duties, they do not think or do not want to think about stress or its effects. They take some steps despite the existing risks and threats. This disorder has an impact on people even if they do not recognize any problems, including the possibility to make reckless decisions and activities, neglect dangers, and even put other people under threat. The role of police officers in everyday life is vital for ordinary people (Cortez & Ball, 2014). They protect people and create good examples to be followed.

Retirement is the period when the outcomes of CCTS can be observed. Retired police officers may suffer from extreme and unexplained anxiety, depression, and fear. Intrusive memories, avoidance, and fast mood changes can create new challenges for law enforcement police officers. Their awareness of law and duties and the lack of knowledge about CCTS result in unreasonable and, sometimes, violent behavior that is hard to control and understand by a family or other people around.

Many examples may lead to CCTS, as well as many methods for officers and other patients to cope with their CCTS. Police officers may participate in different operations during which they may be injured, or their colleagues may be killed. There are also situations when officers kill people whom they find dangerous. Such events cannot be forgotten and leave a certain impact on society and officers. To deal with such events, police officers may use special programs and courses to learn how to live with the grief or how to forgive or be forgiven (Swanson et al., 2016). They can communicate with psychologists and visit special meetings to discuss their problems and concerns. The only task they have to complete is to recognize that a problem exists, and additional help and support can be offered soon.

In general, cumulative career traumatic stress is common among police officers. Its outcomes and symptoms are complicated, and society has to assist this group of people to deal with stress and find solutions. Depression, anxiety, and memories are not the only problems that officers may suffer from, and, therefore, leaders and governments have to take enough steps to identify and solve this problem, beginning with police administration.


Conn, S.M., & Butterfield, L.S. (2013). Coping with secondary traumatic stress by general duty police officers: Practical implications. Canadian Journal of Counseling and Psychotherapy, 47(2), 272-298.

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Cortez, M., & Ball, J.D. (2014). Direct v. indirect exposure to trauma: An insight to officer coping mechanisms. McNair Scholars Research Journal, 10(1), 17-28.

Cumulative PTSD – A silent killer. (n.d.). Web.

Swanson, C.R., Territo, L.J., & Taylor, R.W. (2016). Police administration: Structures, processes, and behavior (9th ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson Education.

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