Stress Among Police Officers: Understanding and Addressing

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Updated: Jun 19, 2023
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Causes of Stress for Police Officers

High expectations are placed on police officers to put everything and everyone aside when duty calls, and it can be tiring and stressful at times to meet this demand due to family and other personal demands. In the eye of the community, the police are expected to go above and beyond the call of duty, and this is demanding as they are only human. It can often be very stressful for an officer when deciding the healthy balance between maintaining reasonable job responsibilities and time for themselves and as well as their families.

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Swanson, Charles R. et al. (2012).


The occupation of a police officer is not only challenging and demanding but is also dangerous. Officers are exposed to situations that may present cruelty, aggression, and violence, and in these high-pressure situations, it can be crucial to their safety as well as others that they must think fast when making critical decisions. Swanson, Charles R. et al. (2012).
Among the many stressors a police officer offers can face, such as cases of child abuse, high-speed chases, making death notices, and responding to dangerous calls, studies show that the single most dangerous stressor is using deadly force in the line of duty. The officer must deal with the psychological feeling of taking a life, the opinions of family and peers, disciplinary action and change of duty assignment in the department, possible criminal prosecution, and unwanted attention from the media. Baruth, C (1986).

Alcoholism and Police Officers

It is often easy for a police officer to become a social drinker and use alcohol as a stimulus when working in an environment where it is the norm. Signs of alcoholism in police officers are the same as in any profession, such as being excessively late or absent from work, complaints from supervisors regarding insubordination, citizen complaints, and personal violations involving alcohol when off duty. Swanson, Charles R. et al. (2012).

Drug Use by Police Officers

Drug use by police officers is not typically with illegal street drugs such as cocaine, heroin, or marijuana but with anabolic steroids. When taken in excess, these drugs not only adversely affect their physical health but can also put them at risk for severe depression, hallucination, thoughts of suicide, sleep disorders, fits of anger, anorexia, retardation, irritability, and displaying aggressive behavior, and psychotic episodes. Charlier (1988).

Stress Treatment and Self-Improvement

The first step to recovery is recognizing that there is a problem. The next step is self-analyzing and being in tune with your emotional state and your body, being aware when something seems off. Once the first two steps have been recognized, then it is time to make sure you are getting adequate rest and incorporate some stress inoculation activities into your lifestyle to help reduce or even eliminate stress. Swanson, Charles R. et al. (2012). Recognizing these problems and wanting to make a change is improving the development of your mind, spirit, and body for a well-balanced life, and this will not only strengthen one’s character, but it can also aid in strengthening the community, which is part of Saint Leo Universities Core Values.


  1. C. Baruth, “Pre-critical Incident Involvement by Psychologists,” in Phycological Services for Law Enforcement, eds, J.T. Reese and H.A. Goldstein (Washington DC: USGPO, 1986), PP. 413-417.
  2. Charlier, “For Teens Steroids, May Be Bigger Issues Than Cocaine Use,” Wall Street Journal, October 4, 1988.t Journal, October 4, 1988.
  3. Swanson, Charles R. et al. (2012). Police Administration. Structures, Processes, And Behaviors. Pp 470-510.
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Stress Among Police Officers: Understanding and Addressing. (2023, Jun 18). Retrieved from