Is Your Job Causing You Institutional PTSD?
Do you have trouble sleeping at night because you are worried about work related tasks? Do you often have nightmares related to work related stress? Do you have flashbacks of unfavorable work related experiences (i.e. bullying, pressure, deadlines, coaching, terminations, etc.)? Do you suffer from mood swings as a result of stress and do these changes in moods affect those around you? Has your work related stress caused a change in your: Personal hygiene? Appetite? Self-Care? Preventive or Routine Check Ups? Financial Management? Socialization?
If you answered yes to most of these questions, there is a concern for your mental and physical well-being. But you are not alone. Although, Institutional PTSD is not an actual diagnosis in the DSM V, our capitalistic economy leads to many individuals exhibiting symptoms far beyond that of anxiety.
The DSM V describes one of the major components of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder as a physical or perceived “life threatening” event. What has not been explored is the idea that losing employment for some could presumably be perceived as “life threatening”. If you are concerned with maintaining employment to feed your family, pay for your shelter, bills, student loans, transportation, etc. then the idea of not being able to work or losing employment is enough of a motivator to overexert yourself at work. The worst part is that some employers know how to exploit this.
In a study conducted to address occupational stress, it was found that individuals who reported work related stress as opposed to those who did not were more at risk for adverse health consequences as well as accelerated aging.1 Another study among human service workers reinforced that professionals in this field suffer from “secondary traumatic stress”due to the mere exposure of trauma when working with their clients.This is also known as known as vicarious trauma or compassion fatigue; a factor leading to occupational burnout. High demands and limited resources were among other contributing factors.2
What can you do if you find that you are in this situation? The first thing you need to do is Self-Care. Make sure that you are taking care of yourself and seeking the advice and assistance of a health care professional and your natural supports (family, friends, etc). Don’t have time? Make some – because you won’t be able to work if you make yourself sick. Occupational stress can lead to taking frequent sick days or even FMLA. Once you are physically stable, you can better manage how to make your next move, whether it is seeking new employment or re-evaluating your methods at your current position. No matter what, you need to think about yourself first.
I remember that when I was in school, they gave us an example of when a flight attendant tells you to put your mask on first before helping others. Logically, you can’t help anyone if you run out of oxygen. Similarly, you have to put yourself first and be in a healthy state of mind and living before you can be there for yourself and/or your loved ones.
Edited by: Christa Blackmon
- Lennartsson A-K, Theorell T, Rockwood AL, Kushnir MM, Jonsdottir IH (2013) Perceived Stress at Work Is Associated with Lower Levels of DHEA-S. PLoS ONE 8(8): e72460. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0072460
- Shoji, K., Lesnierowska, M., Smoktunowicz, E., Bock, J., Luszczynska, A., Benight, C. C., & Cieslak, R. (2015). What Comes First, Job Burnout or Secondary Traumatic Stress? Findings from Two Longitudinal Studies from the U.S. and Poland. Plos One,10(8). doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0136730
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