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Yes, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder can happen in the Workplace

PTSD in the workplace


Know the symptoms to get the best treatment

Seventy percent of Americans will experience a traumatic event in their lifetime. One in 13 will develop a mental health disorder such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. In fact, it isn’t uncommon to endure PTSD in the workplace. Visible wounds are not the only indicators of endured trauma. PTSD though not visible is pain and it can happen at work. PTSD is a valid injury and is worthy of a workers’ compensation claim.


PTSD in the workplace

PTSD is the body’s way of reacting to a stressful, traumatic event. When experiencing first hand or witnessing such an event, the brain “saves” information of the event, such as location, time of year, people involved, weaponry etc. to prevent the body from being exposed to the trauma again.

I have taken the depositions of psychiatrists in PTSD cases who say there is an expectation of safety when at work, and to have a traumatic event occur there can be more psychologically damaging than trauma experienced in other settings.  Recent case law also says that even if your job is inherently dangerous like the jobs listed below, you can be exposed to situations that bring about PTSD as a compensable claim.

Work-related events that might induce PTSD include:

Careers often associated with combat or emergency services aren’t the only that can lead to psychiatric damage. It can take one event or several events after repeated exposure to develop PTSD-related symptoms.


Symptoms of PTSD

The traumatic event doesn’t have to cause direct, physical harm for it to induce PTSD-related symptoms. Experts I have spoken to say that the fear of harm is enough to trigger PTSD symptoms.  These can be debilitating and affect nearly every aspect of the sufferer’s private and workplace life. Only a licensed psychiatrist or psychologist can diagnose PTSD. Mental symptoms that are related to traumatic stress can include:

  • Random bouts of anger
  • Panic attacks
  • Flashbacks of the event(s)
  • Avoidance
  • Overwhelming guilt
  • Self-destructiveness
  • Amnesia
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Easily startled
  • Hearing or seeing things that aren’t there
  • Sleep or eating disorders
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Irritability

PTSD doesn’t only negatively impact the mind and mental well-being of the sufferer. Physical symptoms it can cause can include:

  • Chest-pain
  • Vomiting
  • Fatigue
  • Diarrhea
  • Headaches
  • High blood pressure

It’s important to remember that not every symptom of PTSD will appear and those that do won’t always appear immediately. Some PTSD-related symptoms will take months to years to surface following a traumatic event.


Resources for work-related PTSD

If you, or someone you know, has recently endured a traumatic event or is suffering from PTSD, here are some resources that can help:

The toll-free National Suicide Prevention Hotline 1.800.273.8255 is available 24/7 and has trained volunteers to provide crisis intervention to those with PTSD.

Call the National Alliance on Mental Illness at 1.800.950.6264 or tect “NAMI” to 741741. Hotline staff are available Monday through Friday between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. to answer mental health-related inquiries.


Here’s the bad news

Employers and their insurance companies do not want to take on a complicated mental health diagnosis suffered by their employee.  They will fight the injury every step of the way, going so far as to dig up all past mental health history and personal information.  This is not an injury that you should handle alone.

If your work-induced PTSD-related symptoms impair your ability in any way to report it right away.  Then call a workers’ compensation attorney well versed in handling mental health diagnosis from the work place.  I have handled 100’s of such cases and am happy to have a free, confidential discussion about your situation. – Christine Kiefer, Lawyer, Kiefer Law Office LLC.