Critical incident stress is the body’s normal reaction to a very abnormal event.  

The longer the symptoms persist, the more potential there is for lasting harm. 

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 days of the incident.  Stress symptoms usually occur in four different categories:

  • Cognitive (thinking):  Poor concentration, poor attention, slowed problem solving, memory problems,  difficulty making decisions
  • Physical (body):  Muscle tremors, headaches, elevate blood pressure, gastrointestinal distress
  • Emotional (feelings):  Depression, guilt, loss of emotional control, irritability, grief, anxiety, fear, feeling overwhelmed
  • Behavioral (actions):  Withdrawal from contact, sleep disturbances, changes in eating and work habits, excessive silence
  • Spiritual (faith and hope):  Doubting your faith, feeling spiritually numb, questioning and/or blaming God, wondering how God could allow these things to happen

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.