UNDERSTANDING POST TRAUMATIC STRESS DISORDER (PTSD)
UNDERSTANDING POST TRAUMATIC STRESS DISORDER (PTSD)
Posted on June 26, 2023
What is PTSD
PTSD is a mental disorder. It usually stems from having experienced or witnessed a traumatic event such as a serious accident, physical assault, terrorism, war, natural disaster, or other life-threatening situation. Now, we can also add the recent pandemic to the list of events causing PTSD, or, contributing to worsening the condition for those who already are living with it.
PTSD activates a reaction similar to a “fight or flight” response; Individuals with this disorder tend to relive the traumatic event through specific triggers. These triggers can be certain locations, sounds and sights, and sometimes people, or people’s actions.
CAN A WORKPLACE INDUCE PTSD
Yes, it can.
Industries such as healthcare, military, law enforcement, social work, and even hospitality are more common to see PTSD cases pop up. In other words, industries where the threat of traumatic situations is constant or potential, are on top of the list. Moreover, in some cases, a toxic workplace culture, management, or a workplace accident or traumatic event, can also contribute to the development of PTSD.
A resource by Canada Life provides an excellent overview of PTSD:
An event is more likely to be experienced as trauma when a person perceives the incident to be:
- something they were unprepared for
- the result of intentional cruelty
- related to a childhood event
Potential trauma in the workplace could include exposure to:
- Stressful events – death, grief, suicide, accident or injury
- Organizational stressors – bullying, threats, harassment, betrayal, maliciousness, extreme isolation, chronic pressure, unresolved conflict, toxic work environment, uncertainty, fear for the future, downsizing or fear of unemployment
- Physical stressors – noise, chaotic environment, sense of no control over space, fear for physical safety, harsh or flashing lights, extremes of heat or cold, working amid construction, and other adverse physical conditions
- External threats – evacuation, lockdown, fire or robbery
The steps that you take to address workplace trauma can also be helpful for employees who live with PTSD as a result of non-work-related trauma. This means, even if your employee isn’t affected by a workplace incident, you can still help them overcome obstacles that impact their ability to work effectively and in a healthy capacity.
Symptoms of PTSD
PTSD symptoms are not immediate and are known to develop anytime from days to 3 months following the trauma. When PTSD is triggered, the individual will experience a high level of anxiety and will try to avoid any thought or feeling associated with the traumatic event they’ve experienced. The most common symptoms of PTSD are:
- Lack of sleep, recurrent nightmares, lack of focus
- Depression, self- blame, emotional numbness, social detachment
- Panic attacks, increased breathing, heart rate, and sweating
- Emotional responses such as excessive anger, fear or sadness, and irritability
- Loss of interest in hobbies or activities that were once enjoyable
- Increased negativity and difficulty with remaining positive
PTSD is not an automatic response; not everyone will suffer from PTSD after a traumatic event. It is a psychological disorder which affects an individual’s physiological response to stress and fear. As everyone will respond to situations differently, so will our response to traumatic events. That said, one can directly or indirectly (family members, friends, co-workers, etc.) be affected by PTSD.
If a PTSD diagnosis is not sought, or left untreated, it can worsen and lead to isolation, substance abuse as a coping mechanism, and in the worst cases, suicide. It should not be taken lightly or hidden, nor should it be something to be ashamed of.
PTSD is treatable with the adequate medical treatment such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), combined with patience, understanding, and support.
Supporting employees with PTSD
One way to help employees diagnosed with PTSD, or any other mental health disorder, is to adopt an Employee Assistance Program (EAP). An EAP offers short-term and confidential counselling services. Another way to support your employees, is through a Health and Wellness Program including a mental health component.
Employer commitment, leadership, and participation are significant in implementing an effective psychological health and safety management system (PHSMS), as depicted in the CSA Standard Psychological Health and Safety in the workplace- Prevention, Promotion and Guidance to staged implementation (2013).
The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety website (CCOHS.ca) offers answers on how an organization can help employees cope with PTSD.
WORKERS COMPENSATION BOARD (MANITOBA)
In 2016, WCB introduced the PTSD presumption to alleviate the stigma associated with PTSD and ease the establishment of a connection between PTSD and employment. Although WCB has always covered PTSD, this presumption, not limited to specific occupations, allows WCB to presume that the diagnosed PTSD is directly related to the worker’s employment. This presumption stands unless the WCB investigation proves the PTSD was caused by an event not related to work.
Helping someone with PTSD
AWARENESS, KNOWLEDGE, AND SUPPORT
Awareness and knowledge are the first steps. Educate yourself on Post Traumatic Stress. It is very important to understand that someone displaying symptoms of PTSD does not have full control over their reactions and emotions. There are plenty of resources available, the first one being a simple online search. Please see a list of resources below, if you know someone who is directly or indirectly affected by PTSD.
REMOVING THE STIGMA
With more research on PTSD, an increase in availability of information, and PTSD being an official diagnosis, the stigma that is attached to this mental disorder is pushed back, leaving room for more understanding and empathy. Offering support and patience will go along way in helping someone cope with PTSD.
For as long as humans will encounter traumatic events, there will be PTSD. We can help reduce the stigma, and care for the ones affected by PTSD, by being aware of it, understanding what it is and where it comes from. PTSD is not a voluntary state of mind, it is a mental disorder involving uncontrollable reactions and emotions, and a way of battling stress caused by a traumatic event.
If you or someone you know is affected by PTSD, we want you to feel empowered to seek help. Below are some helpful resources:
- 1-888-668-6810 or text WELLNESS to 686868 for youth
- 1-866-585-0445 or text WELLNESS to 741741 for adults
Additionally, Made Safe offers consulting services concerning Psychological Safety in the workplace. For more information, please contact us at email@example.com