The Toxic Work Environment and PTSD: Why Do I Get Sick So Often?

A toxic work environment can cause PTSD.  Period.  When psychologists first became aware of the set of symptoms that they later described as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), they assigned it to individuals that had been through extreme trauma, such as soldiers coming home from the warzone, or victims of crime.  The more traumatic, the more likely the individual will start feeling these set of symptoms.

This continues to be true today, as many people who go through these traumatic situations tend to later on experience symptoms related to PTSD.  However, in the last few years, psychologists began to see that it is not necessary to have experienced great trauma in order to experience PTSD.  In fact, there are people that are subjected to heightened states of stress and hyper-awareness on a daily basis, and they too experience many of the symptoms that victims of crime had experienced.  Psychologists began to notice that people who had been subjected to bullying can develop PTSD too.

You may be aware of the stories where the bullied individual takes his/her life.  Imagine the amount of stress that that person may have been under.  But bullying is not confined to certain places or certain age groups.  Bullying can happen anywhere and at any age, and if it is happening to you, you shouldn’t feel ashamed.  You should know that there is help and it all starts with recognizing the situation and understanding it so that you can take the steps to leave that situation behind.

Many people who experience a toxic work environment, often because of a bully boss wonder why they get sick so often.  The answer is quite simple.  You may have heard of the “fight or flee” reaction.  It typically means that when your body is under stress, it tends to react to protect you from danger.  Your body does not know the difference between being attacked by a lion and being reprimanded for the tenth time by your bully boss.  Your body thinks it’s under attack and needs to protect your life. 

When your body is constantly under stress, and you feel like you are inside a pressure cooker, your body goes into survival mode and wants to either fight the danger or flee it.  But as you sit in your cubicle, or in your home office, or wherever your place of work happens to be, you realize that you can do neither and your body continues to produce stress hormones.

These stress hormones are there to make you hyper-aware of the situation and to safeguard your life, and even though they are adaptive and very useful when you are in actual danger (as in the example above, when you are about to be eaten by a lion), they are dangerous when you experience them every day.  Your body’s immunity will slowly decrease, and you will start feeling and getting sick much more often than you had in the past.

You may have heard my story before.  I explain a little bit of what happened to me here.  I left that toxic place behind and so can you.  I can assure you that you will be better in the end.  I used to get sad thinking about what I left behind.  Today, my thinking has shifted completely, and I am nothing but thankful for the opportunity that leaving a toxic work environment has brought to my life.

Remember, you can do it too! (Join my free Facebook group right here)