Dealing with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) at work can be stressful. Navigating flashbacks, panic attack, and hypervigilance is difficult in any setting, but managing these symptoms in a workplace can feel impossible. When you're constantly worrying about judgment from your coworkers and peers, it can be hard to focus on the job at hand.
Because I developed PTSD in high school, I had to quickly learn how to cope with the symptoms of PTSD in order to survive my entrance into adulthood. Graduating from college and starting a career while suffering from PTSD wasn't easy by any means, but I've learned how to adapt.
Why Coping with PTSD in the Workplace Is Difficult
By its nature, PTSD makes being around other people difficult. Unless you work from home, it's almost impossible to avoid other people in the workplace. It can feel like there are constantly eyes on you, and that can exacerbate the paranoid and hypervigilant symptoms of PTSD. It can also be a challenge to find a private place when you need to de-escalate a panic attack or ground yourself after a flashback.
Being in close proximity with coworkers can be stressful for someone with PTSD for a number of reasons. While other workers might not mind cramming into a small breakroom or meeting room, many people with PTSD don't like their personal space to be invaded. The average worker might find loud conversations and background chatter in the office to be a minor annoyance, but those types of distractions could be tough for someone with PTSD to handle.
How to Deal with PTSD in the Workplace
I will be the first person to admit that dealing with PTSD in the workplace is really, really difficult. There are times when I wonder if I can handle it. There have been times that my disorder has gotten in the way of my ability to succeed at my job. But having PTSD has forced me to focus on my work-life balance at a young age, and my long-term happiness feels more secure because of that.
The way you manage your PTSD symptoms in the workplace will be unique to you and your experiences. I've learned to manage mine in a number of ways, including:
- Using headphones to block out background noise
- Taking frequent bathrooms breaks to allow for a little alone time and privacy throughout the day
- Eating at times when the breakroom is less crowded
- Using my lunch hour to go for a walk or relax
- Only working during work hours to avoid overstressing myself
Getting through the workday when you have PTSD is not easy, but it is possible. With trial and error, you can find ways to treat and manage your PTSD symptoms in the workplace. Though it can be difficult at times, you can still reach and strive for your goals in the workplace just like anyone else.