Post traumatic stress disorder in the workplace

Creating an Understanding Working Environment to Individuals with PTSD

For those suffering from post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), working can prove to be an everyday challenge.  Many patients with the diagnosis of post traumatic stress disorder are forced to file for disability, rendering them unable to work at all.  For those who still have to make a living finding the right work environment can prove to be a challenge.  Because it can be so difficult for those who have never experienced the effects of PTSD, explaining your situation can be rather frustrating, furthermore adding to the complexity of post traumatic stress disorder.

There are many scenarios and events that can lead to the development of post traumatic stress disorder, so it is important to determine what the cause of post traumatic stress disorder is and avoid workplace situations that could be related to the initial traumatic incident.  It is common in war veterans, who were at one point in charge of their job and other soldiers, to take a job where they have an immediate supervisor.  The working veteran may see the person acting as their superior to be a cause for stress.   After everything that a war veteran may have experienced, taking orders from a civilian can be a real challenge.

 How Does an Individual with PTSD Effectively and Successfully Join the Workforce?

According to the guidelines set by the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), PTSD is highly likely to limit the abilities of someone who suffers with the psychological condition.  Individuals with post traumatic stress disorder are not required to disclose their condition to potential employers, but employers can request a medical examination if they have reason to suspect that the employee is incapable of doing their job.  A medical examination can also be requested if there is an incident involving an employee with post traumatic stress disorder.

Some of the symptoms of PTSD include avoidance, numbness to the outside world, and hypersensitivity.  Subsequently, these factors can cause someone with post traumatic stress disorder to be unable to complete certain work- related tasks.  In the event that someone with the condition fails to meet work expectations, the employer does have grounds for disciplinary action.  Employers are required, however, to consider all of the factors leading up to the issues presented by the employee.  Special accommodations should then be made in order to help facilitate the working environment of an employee with post traumatic stress disorder.

Paperwork and proof play a large part in the implementation of special accommodations for employees with post traumatic stress disorder.  If an employee chooses to request accommodations due to their condition, they must provide all documentation related to their diagnosis of post traumatic stress disorder.

What Accommodations can be Made to Improve the Working Environment of an Employee with PTSD?

Due to potential memory and concentration issues that my interfere with their work performance, taking extra effort to create a list of tasks to be completed or expectations can be a helpful guide for those with post traumatic stress disorder.  To decrease or eliminate the stress that can come from a variety of sources, having a list of daily tasks that can be checked off could give some peace of mind and a positive sense of accomplishment that the job is getting done; showing the employee that he is staying on track and moving forward.  Limiting stressful situations that could be perceived as a threat is a very important part of accommodating an employee with post traumatic stress disorder.  If the working establishment is large enough to have multiple departments, placing the employee in the least stressful position is the best course of action. Certain stressors can trigger flashbacks and cause problems for an employee with PTSD.

The alternate option is for someone with post traumatic stress disorder to avoid being an employee for a business or organization and start a business of their own. This is not as simple as just going out and starting a business, but if it is a plausible option this would give the person much more control over their daily life and could eliminate a lot of the stressors related to having a regular job.

Working with PTSD

Returning to a normal working environment, after being diagnosed with PTSD or after suffering from a traumatic event, can be a challenging experience that many individuals take for granted everyday.  If you have PTSD, try to keep an open and honest dialogue with your employer.  While it may be difficult to articulate what you are feeling, it will help you and your co-workers.  If you are an employer who has hired an individual with PTSD, try not to stereotype or generalize his condition.  It is important to educate yourslef with the condition, but don’t make any assumptions about your employee.  Encourage him to have a discussion with you and don’t be afraid to offer positive reinforcement in the workplace.

Accommodating employees with PTSD


  1. Leon Morgan

    I need help and some more information on PTSD.

    • admin

      You’ve come to the right place, Leon! Keep an eye out on this blog for regularly updated info!

  2. Regina

    I told my manager a few months ago that I have severe ptsd. Ive been working at my retail store as a sales consultant for literally almost a year. My one year evaluation is a few weeks away.
    Recently, I have had huge life stressors happen rapid fire during the last two months. I thought I had gotten my disorder to the point of management, if not regression, because when things would trigger me but I was able to keep it under control and not show anything that was going on inside of me…if I dod I was able to explain it very easily by something else or making an excuse.
    The past two months have been the hardest of my life during work. Now it is completely obvious there is something severely wrong with me and I cant make up excuses anymore so I started telling a few coworkers I trust that I have ptsd. It doesnt bother me much if word has gotten around, or I should say thats the least of my worries. What is terrifying me now is the fear I am losing my mind. Everyone is constantly asking me if im okay and I feel like im getting treated differently then ever before…because of how I can perceive things when im in my irrational state of mind it can make things so much worse. I start to get paranoid that im doing something strange or not behaving normally and ill start to get anxiety and then its a slippery slope from there. I have the strangest irrational fear (which upon internet research, yes I know so dependable, ive found is caused by extreme anxiety) of wetting myself. I get so in my head about it, it starts to feel real. Then all of a sudden I have to go in the bathroom (which is my “safe place” at work) to check if I have. I have no idea if this is normal pr happens to other people or whether or not im doing it. My manager told me today that they are switching me from sales to a “less stressful and demanding” position. This just reinforces this fear.

    Anytime I interact with a customer someone is always hanging around now. Either one of my managers or a coworker watches off in the distance. I dont know what to do…someone told me today (not a coworker nor manager) that since Ive disclosed my diagnosis they are no longer able to fire me for fear of legal retaliation. I know it is legal for them to still fire me despite my situation but I am afraid they are avoiding doing so for that reason, regardless of the legality of it.

    I really need help. I dont know what to do. Everyone treats me so dofferent all of a sudden and coworkers aswell as customers seem uncomfortable around me. This in and of itself is upsetting, but now its reinforcing that strange issue more and more…also other things.

  3. Stephanie

    How do I tell my new employer that I have PTSD? I often (especially in new situations) am late to work.

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