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  • Writer's pictureDr. Carrie Steiner

Cumulative Stress & Firefighting

Firefighters/Paramedics face serious risks on the job such as heat exhaustion, burns, lack of sleep, physical and mental stress. Research shows that approximately 20% of firefighters may develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) during their career after being exposed to a critical incident.

Studies show that age and job seniority also have significant effects on psychological distress among firefighters. Being young and starting young to serve as a firefighter for a relatively long time is a significant risk factor for psychological distress. It is important to know signs and symptoms of cumulative stress and how to seek appropriate assistance for yourself or a co-worker during your years of duty to maintain your resilience.


· Desensitization/Lack of empathy

· Negative Mood

· Numbness/Callousness

· Hypervigilance

· Increased arousal

· Internalization (mental health issues: anxiety, depression, poor sleep)

· Externalization (aggression, addiction, risk taking)

· Inability to enjoy activities

· Anxiety

· Irritable

· Isolation

If you recognize any signs of distress or are struggling, be preventive and contact FRWC: 630-909-9094 or


· Tactical Breathing

· Exercise (minimum 3 times a week)

· Increase of vegetables, fruits, and whole foods (5-7 a day)

· Prioritize Sleep (7-9 hours)

· Drink water/hydrate (8 glasses)

· Use stress reduction apps: Calm, Headspace, Breathe2Relax

· Grounding exercises: Use 5 senses

· Distraction Techniques

· Discover a new hobby or sport

· Find safe places to relax

· Treat family/friends special

· Know when to ask for help

24/7 Peer Support Hotlines: Safe Call Now:206-459-2040 or Illinois Firefighter Peer Support Hotline:855-90-SUPPORT or 855-907-8776

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