PTSD, also known as post-traumatic stress disorder, occurs when a person experiences trauma. When many people think of PTSD, they think of people who have been in violent situations, with the most common example being war veterans.
However, anyone can experience trauma and have PTSD as a result. And it can even occur in the places where you’d least expect it, such as your place of work. This article will help you better define workplace PTSD and how your job can lead to serious trauma.
What is PTSD?
In order to understand what PTSD is, it’s important to first understand what causes it—trauma. Trauma occurs when someone has to call their sense of the world into question and or something compromises their overall sense of stability. While it’s true that this trauma can stem from being a victim of a crime, being in combat, and other violent events, that isn’t the only source of trauma. Mental and emotional abuse are a few of the prime causes of trauma that don’t involve violence, and you don’t have to have an event happen to you directly to have trauma.
What is workplace PTSD and how does it occur?
Workplace PTSD is trauma and subsequent post-traumatic stress disorder that comes from events that happened in the workplace or due to workplace conditions. These events or conditions can harm someone physically, mentally, or emotionally. Some of the more obvious causes are violence or harassment from a boss or coworker, sexual assault, or any other crimes occurring in the workplace.
It can also occur due to consistent stress of the job, such as dealing with violent or abusive clients, having to be responsive during time off or odd hours, or being asked to perform untrained tasks. These stressors and events are often the results of existing in a hostile work environment.
What does workplace PTSD look like?
Anything that occurs in or from your place of work that disturbs your overall sense of well-being for an extended period can cause trauma and subsequent PTSD. In order to receive a diagnosis of PTSD, you must match all the following summarized criteria listed in the DSM-V:
- Be the victim or witness stressor event(s)
- Intrusive symptoms, such as emotional distress or flashbacks
- Avoidance of triggers, such as avoiding a person or place
- Alterations in mood or cognition
- Alterations in reactivity, such as aggression or hypervigilance
These symptoms should last more than one month, must not be from medication or substance use, and must create some form of functional impairment to meet the criteria.
Workplace PTSD is real, and many people go untreated due to the general misunderstanding of trauma and traumatic events. Understanding workplace PTSD and how your job can give you trauma can help victims and their loved ones better support them.