The Toxic Work Environment and PTSD

Yes, a toxic work environment can lead to PTSD (Post -Traumatic Stress Disorder).  We typically would not think of it, as this is usually what we hear when we refer to combat troops, people who have gone through severe trauma, or those who have experienced serious injury or abandonment.  But there is a category of people who have been showing up to their doctor’s office more and more these days, and that’s those who are being subjected to a toxic work culture.  These employees tend to exhibit symptoms similar to those who have experienced trauma. Why?  Because in reality, they are experiencing trauma!  There is no room to breathe when exposed to a pressure-cooker type of work environment.

What symptoms do employees present with that are cause for red flag?

Let’s name a few:

  1. Hypervigilance:  Employees feel like they are constantly “walking on eggshells,” not able to understand how to behave and having to account for other people’s feelings and emotions. 
  2. Problems concentrating: It is hard to focus when you don’t know when the next shoe is going to fall.  Fear is the enemy of concentration.
  3. Persistent negative feelings about oneself:  Feeling depressed sad, and helpless.
  4. Having nightmares, distressing dreams:  You repeat the distressing events over and over and as a consequence, you have difficulty sleeping.
  5. Difficulty sleeping (see above).
  6. Physiological symptoms:  Digestive issues, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, headaches, high blood pressure.

If you are experiencing any of the symptoms above, or similar ones, you may be in a toxic work environment, and you need to figure out your next steps.

I thought of no better time to bring up these issues than right now.  Even though I have been free from this type of work bullying for almost three months now (Yayyy!), I still experience some of these symptoms, and I want to share them with you so that you don’t have to go through what I went through. 

In my old job, my boss(es) ganged up against employees, made them feel devalued, unwelcome, and unimportant.  I used to constantly have nightmares about events at work, a situation that many of my coworkers also shared with me.  Some of us had difficulty sleeping, eating, and experienced physical symptoms such as headaches and stomachaches.  I actually experienced what it meant to be “disgusted” by a situation as my gut told me exactly what that was. 

I was lucky enough to seek the help of my primary health care provider.  When I told her what was happening and what I was feeling, she recognized the symptoms right away.  She let me cry for about 30 minutes, non-stop during that first visit.  She constantly checked on me to make sure that I was putting myself first.   I will be forever grateful to her for helping me understand that I need to take care of me

This is the message that I want to leave with you today:  Remember, your number one responsibility is to YOURSELF

Girl crying by a rained on window.
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