When people think of a traumatic workplace, a heroic yet dangerous occupation such as firefighting, army officer, war zone reporter, or healthcare worker comes to mind. However, people are increasingly reporting trauma developed from toxic jobs or workplaces.
In fact, research published in The International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine found that banks, retail stores, and fast-food restaurants accounted for the most severe psychologically traumatic events, while industrial and manufacturing sites reported less severe incidents.
People who continually have negative experiences at work, such as racism, sexism, bullying, job insecurity, and poor work-life balance, suffer from ‘workplace PTSD.’
So, how does long-term workplace trauma affect you?
What is workplace trauma?
Workplace trauma usually stems from being chronically stressed. For example, when people deal with time pressures, high or low-demand tasks, organizational instability, or conflict with colleagues or managers for a long time, they notice cognitive and behavioral symptoms.
Workplace trauma can cause sufferers to have insomnia, anxiety, isolation, poor concentration, and hypervigilance. Even long after quitting a job, people may continue to experience symptoms, for example, when they get an email notification.
Some people develop mental health disorders from workplace-induced trauma, such as anxiety and depression.
Here are some of the ways long-time workplace trauma affects people.
- feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion;
- increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job; and
- reduced professional efficacy.”
The symptoms of burnout may be dismissed if not recognized, but it’s a severe condition that, if left untreated, can cause other mental health disorders that are difficult to manage.
People who go through a traumatic experience or experience long-term workplace trauma feel lonely and disconnected. As mental health is only recently becoming an important issue that employers started addressing, some things are still taboo for employees to discuss when they require help.
After a particular incident, the experience can leave them socially isolated, or they may lack interest in the people and activities they used to enjoy. Trauma sufferers often become hypervigilant in social situations, expecting a threat from others or something to go wrong. This also pushes them to spend more time alone.
According to The American Institute of Stress, 83% of US workers suffer from work-related stress, with 25% saying their job is the number one stressor in their lives. Living with chronic work stress can cause many people to develop anxiety.
Similarly, a traumatic event can cause severe anxiety. People who suffer from anxiety can develop worse reactions to stress, such as panic attacks, heart problems, sleep problems, increased risk for other mental illnesses, and weakened immune systems.
Sometimes severe traumatic experiences can cause PTSD and depression in sufferers. PTSD and depression have similar symptoms such as:
- Feeling isolated and avoiding people
- Having negative thoughts about oneself or the world
- Experiencing negative emotions daily, such as fear, anger, guilt, or shame
- Losing interest in previous activities
- Self-harming behavior or resorting to destructive coping mechanisms such as drinking alcohol and taking drugs
In fact, PTSD sufferers are likely to also deal with depression. Luckily, depression is a highly treatable condition with therapy.
Research shows that trauma survivors often suffer from sleep disturbances and disorders. Trauma sufferers are hypervigilant even in their sleep, and that’s why they experience sleep disturbances such as nightmares, waking up multiple times during the night, or inability to sleep. They also have an increase in brain activity, because of an overactive amygdala. Struggling with sleep causes tiredness, dizziness, more stress and lower mood.
Unfortunately, addiction is a common result of experiencing trauma. Some people choose to cope with their anxiety, depression, or trauma with the wrong mechanisms by abusing substances such as drugs and alcohol. Over time, the substance abuse becomes persistent as it’s the only way the trauma sufferer can feel better or numb. Persistent substance abuse can cause addiction and more mental health disorders in the long term.
Inability to work
As both the body and the mind start associating the workplace with stress and danger, people may begin avoiding their workplace and working. Avoidance is a common response to trauma, as sufferers can get flashbacks of the incident (if one has occurred), or their cortisol levels rise each time they are exposed to the same environment. People eventually begin avoiding working altogether to avoid experiencing flashbacks, panic attacks or more stress.
How do you recover from workplace trauma?
Recognizing that you are suffering is the first step to recovery. Recovering from trauma is possible with professional help and we at White River Manor are here to help you.
If you have experienced any kind of trauma, our professional team can help you by finding the type of therapy that works for you. We provide a holistic treatment program that’s shaped around your personal needs.
Combining intensive therapy, medical management, psychiatric evaluation, exercise options, healthy eating and nutrition, we offer deep transformational healing and recovery from your trauma.
Please contact us today to learn more about our therapy programs and how we can support you.