Friday, May 29, 2009

PTSD Symptoms in the Work Place: How We Deal

So, I asked you all for input about how to deal with PTSD at work and there were no takers for thrashing out that challenge in the comments. But: I received several personal responses via email and an online PTSD group I'm in. I'll post them here for an overview of how we deal:

I do believe that honesty is the best policy, however I feel it is best to wait a while before confiding too much in others. This gives a person a chance to show that they can perform well despite the PTSD symptoms and also allows time for trust to develop. My personal belief is that people with PTSD have enhanced skills and gifts which are very beneficial to employers and they need to see that. I also think it is better to focus on the symptoms rather than providing too many details of the causes.

...become aware of company or organization policies can prove beneficial as well because it can give insight on minimal info to be disclosed dealing with any disability in the workplace.

I did everything I could to keep my job!!! Life is worse without one.

I told my boss I was in therapy, and that's about it. Months later after I received numerous customer compliments, and positive work reviews, I started to reveal bits more here and there in casual conversation. I don't advertise, but I control the flow of info, and bust through stereotypes one person at a time.

It's important you take slow steps in talking with employers and colleagues, but the new ADA law now protects us and gives us the right to talk about it, or not. It also gives us the power to ask for extra help or new training.... any one with a mental health issue has the same rights as someone in a wheel chair.

I would be very careful about when and to whom you disclose your disability. PTSD is a hidden disability, and some of the symptoms or reactions are not understood at all by many employers and colleagues. If you need accommodations to maintain working, then you need to disclose the disability. I'd be very careful about disclosing the cause of the PTSD especially if it is childhood trauma.

I think your gut will let you know how much you want to share. I know as years pass my boundaries are shored up to where I feel safe in sharing.

And now, some very innovative tips for alleviating PTSD pressure at work -- from a guy who really knows how to find and hold his center, even with PTSD:

I arranged on some days to work from home and so when it was possible I did some days of working at home and made damn sure I had something to show for it at the end to repay the trust.

Sometimes I’d book into a B&B near to work so that I could not do a commute on one day or two and have an evening walk or something nice and cheap.

I’d get coffee/water from a machine that was not the nearest one so that I could have a bit of a walk away from my desk.

I’d walk to the shops at lunchtime to get a break.

I sometimes took a small tent and booked into a campsite that was about 20 minutes away from the office so that on some weeks I could have a mini-holiday and be an office-worker during the day and ‘on holiday’ in the evening.

Sometimes I took a small tarp and free-camped in countryside near work. It broke up the week with some sense of adventure.

(Photo: Lady_Assassin)


Anonymous said...

I take breaks at work. When I feel anxiety coming on I go outside and walk around the building or go sit by the lake by the office.
Short breaks always seemed to help.
If someone comes into my office and I start feeling uneasy I will stand up and walk them to the door and talk to them in the hall.
Little tricks I've learned over the years.

Ellen said...

These are great examples of two people dealing successfully with work and PTSD.

In my case,when working full time, I used complete denial. If I couldn't work due to depression one day, I'd say it was the stomache flu. If I had to leave, I'd plead a headache. It just was not a safe environment in which to have 'problems'. And I wasn't established as a successful worker.

I hope in the future to progress to a little more honesty, when I've gotten more of a grip on things. I hope. Or to have my symptoms under control so they don't affect my job.

Michele Rosenthal said...

@anonymous - Good tips, reminding us that we can manage our PTSD symtpoms by awareness. And I love the idea of keeping your office space sacred, only letting in those whom we wish to allow into our personal space.

@Ellen - Let's go for your final idea -- having symptoms under control! In your experience, what's the biggest issue: being triggered by something at work, or bringing the PTSD mood with you from home? The latter was always my largest problem.

Ellen said...

Both happened with me. Some situations at work caused me enormous anxiety because they triggered some worries I had.

But in terms of strictly PTSD, I never had a flashback type experience at work thank God, except when I went to the dentist and then had to go back to work. Like you, that stuff and the depression would come with me from home or from outside of work.


BeautyThroughPain said...

All of these ideas are fantastic if you work in an office.

I wonder, though, what might work for someone who can't simply take a break? I am a teacher, and newly diagnosed with PTSD. I've been having a lot of anxiety attacks lately and am really worried about what's going to happen when school starts in a few weeks.

Michele Rosenthal said...

@Beautythroughpain -- How great that you have your diagnosis and can begin the path to recovery. You ask a great question and there are definitely things that can be done. For example: square breathing is a technique you can do any time, any where without anyone noticing. Another tactic I use with clients in the middle of a situation is for them to take 5 steps back INSIDE THEIR MIND. Our emotions are driven by the pictures/perspective in our minds. When imagine yourself taking 5 steps backward it gives your mind distance from the stressor and allows it to begin formulating a less acute response. For more PTSD info and many free events designed around learning more techniques like this, come over to my new site: I have an event on 8/31 that will be full of coping techniques for trauma anniversaries, but they work equally well for your situation. See here for details:

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Anonymous said...

My ptsd is severe ..I panic when too many people are around me and I get severe flashbacks. ..I cope fighting my condition everyday taking on step at a time..I am determined I'm a survivor not a victom...I hate the fact that I suffer severe ptsd but I set myself challenges even getting to work is an achievement. I know whatever challenges I do scare the pants off me but when you reach the achievement on the other side it's like finding a piece of the old me before I had this condition and it makes it worth while