The importance of personality in the development of PTSD in firefighters
Journal of Traumatic Stress
Meyer, E.C., Zimering, R.T., Knight, J., Morissette, S.B., Kamholz, B.W., Coe, E., Carpenter, T.P., Keane, T.M., Kimbrel, N.A. and Gulliver, S.B.,
Fire fighters routinely risk their lives to protect the public. Over 1 million fire fighters in the United States alone sign up for this dangerous profession to protect people, wildlands, and property despite known threats to their healthy, safety, and wellbeing. While our prior research points to remarkable levels of resilience in this population given their enormous exposure to a variety of traumatic experiences (Gulliver et al., in press), a minority of fire fighters do develop posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or related mental health problems. This points toward the presence of individual-level risk factors that drives this variability in responses to traumatic events.
Much prior research on risk factors for PTSD has focused on demographic factors such as age and gender or to characteristics of the trauma exposure. While important, such factors either account for very small amounts of variability in risk or are not modifiable and therefore do not inform risk mitigation or intervention approaches. Personality has been relatively understudied as a risk factor for PTSD, particularly in prospective research where personality is measured prior to trauma exposure. Fire fighters thus represent an ideal population in which to study the influence of personality on the development of PTSD and related symptoms. Fire fighters can be assessed upon entry into the profession, prior to being exposed to traumatic events, and then assessed over long follow-up periods because they typically remain with the same department for many years.