Intermittent explosive disorder is characterized by failure to resist aggressive impulses which result in serious assaults or property destruction. The degree of aggression during an episode is grossly out of proportion to any provocation or situational stress. Symptoms include irritability or rage, increased energy, and racing thoughts during the episode. These episodes are followed by a depressed mood, fatigue, remorse, and embarrassment.
Substance Abuse Disorders: Substance abuse disorders include drug and alcohol abuse and dependence. Yes, LEOs are at risk for alcohol abuse and dependence. So are their family members, friends and partners. If you believe that you or someone you care about has a problem with alcohol, you can take a self-test.
Most cops avoid all illegal drugs, but they may fall victim to prescription drug abuse. After all, it was "prescribed by a doctor." Hurt your back apprehending a suspect, slipped on ice plant, rotator cuff problems, kidney stones? The doc and some good meds will help. However, the medications used are frequently very addictive. According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA) over nine million people use prescription medication for non-medical uses.
Mental Illness and Substance Abuse Treatment
The average individual delays seeking mental health treatment for years (six to either years for a mood disorder and nine to 23 years for an anxiety disorder). So you decide to weather it out; "things will get better when [something happens]." Why wait, what are you most afraid of? Early identification and treatment of mental health disorders is paramount. Mental illness and substance abuse are treatable disorders, and with the appropriate treatment the success rate is quite high. Medications, individual/group/family therapy, and support groups (especially in combination) are the treatments of choice. Psychotropic medications can actually help rather than hinder your on-the-job performance in law enforcement. "Any effect on reaction time by antidepressant medication is miniscule compared to the profound impairment of cognition, information processing and survival-oriented decision-making caused by untreated depression" (Force Science News--see link below). If you do not respond to a medication, inform your doctor. It may be the med and he/she can adjust the dosage or change you to a new medication.
Keep in mind; you do have the right to strictly confidential mental health treatment, with a provider of your choice. Consider this before your department mandates a fitness-for-duty psychiatric assessment. You also have the right to receive treatment in the least restrictive environment available.
This is what you can do today. Make an appointment with your primary care physician, ask for a referral to psychiatric specialist through your insurance plan, contact your EAP, call a hotline, find a chat online, go to a forum, or reach out to someone you trust. If you are concerned about someone else, convey your concerns and provide them with some options.
- Anxiety Hotline: 1-888-826-9438
- Mental Health Info Source: 1-800-447-4474
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255
- Depression Hotline: 1-800-248-4344
- Alcohol and Substance Abuse Referral Hotline: 1-800-662-4357
If you have no symptoms, or your symptoms are mild, you still can benefit from a mental health plan. You probably already have a routine to promote physical health and avoid that heart attack. Mental health month is the perfect time to start.
25 Tips to Improve and Maintain Your Mental Health