A broken mirror reflecting shattered pieces of confidence and self-esteem
Bullying,  Anxiety,  Stress

Symptoms of PTSD from Workplace Bullying – Scientific Approach

I’ve always believed that our workplaces should be spaces of growth, collaboration, and personal fulfillment.

But there’s a grim reality that we can’t ignore—workplace bullying.

In my opinion, recognizing and addressing the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) resulting from workplace bullying is not just an issue of professional well-being; it’s a matter of fundamental human dignity.

This article is a call to action, a testament to the resilience of individuals who have faced the torment of workplace bullying and emerged as survivors.

It’s a reminder that we can’t turn a blind eye to the lasting scars that bullying leaves, nor can we underestimate the importance of understanding and support.

Join me in this exploration of recognizing the symptoms of PTSD from workplace bullying.

Together, we’ll uncover the signs, we’ll validate the experiences, and we’ll learn how to provide the necessary assistance.

It’s time to create workplaces that prioritize mental health, compassion, and a profound commitment to ending workplace bullying.

Understanding Workplace Bullying

How to Manage Anxiety Caused by Bullying at Work

Workplace bullying is not an isolated incident but a pattern of persistent mistreatment.

It encompasses various behaviors, including

This destructive behavior can originate from colleagues, supervisors, or even subordinates, creating a distressing and hostile work environment.

Imagine walking into the office every day, dreading the interactions you will have with your colleagues.

The fear of being belittled, insulted, or undermined hangs over your head like a dark cloud.

Workplace bullying is a pervasive issue that affects individuals across industries and organizations.

It is important to understand the different forms that workplace bullying can take.

Verbal abuse is one of the most common types, where individuals are subjected to harsh and derogatory language that chips away at their self-esteem.

Social isolation is another insidious form, where the targeted individual is deliberately excluded from social activities and conversations, making them feel like an outcast.

Definition and Types of Workplace Bullying

Workplace bullying involves persistent mistreatment that causes psychological harm to the targeted individual.

It can manifest in different forms, such as

  • verbal abuse,
  • social isolation,
  • unjust criticism,
  • and even cyberbullying.

Unfortunately, the subtlety of these behaviors can make it difficult to identify and address the problem.

Unjust criticism can be a particularly damaging form of workplace bullying.

Imagine working tirelessly on a project, only to have your efforts torn apart by a supervisor who constantly finds fault in your work.

This constant criticism not only undermines your confidence but also hampers your professional growth and development.

Cyberbullying, a relatively new form of workplace bullying, has gained prominence with the rise of technology.

It involves using electronic communication platforms to harass, intimidate, or spread rumors about an individual. The anonymity provided by the internet makes it easier for bullies to target their victims without fear of immediate consequences.

Prevalence and Impact of Workplace Bullying

Studies show that workplace bullying is more common than we might think.

It affects millions of workers worldwide.

The consequences extend beyond the individual, as they impact the overall productivity and well-being of organizations.

Furthermore, the emotional toll it takes on the targeted individual can be devastating, leading to long-lasting consequences like PTSD from workplace bullying.

Workplace bullying is a silent epidemic that often goes unnoticed or unaddressed.

Many individuals suffer in silence, afraid to speak up for fear of retaliation or not being taken seriously.

The psychological impact of bullying can be severe, leading to anxiety, depression, and even suicidal thoughts.

Moreover, the effects of workplace bullying ripple through the entire organization.

When employees are subjected to mistreatment, their motivation and morale plummet.

This, in turn, leads to decreased productivity and increased turnover rates.

Organizations that fail to address workplace bullying not only lose valuable employees but also tarnish their reputation as a desirable place to work.

Organizations must recognize the prevalence and impact of workplace bullying and take proactive measures to prevent and address it.

Creating a culture of respect, providing training on conflict resolution, and implementing clear policies against bullying are some of the steps that can be taken to create a safe and healthy work environment.

What is PTSD?

Working with PTSD - Solid Strategies for Coping and Managing Symptoms

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, commonly known as PTSD, is a mental health condition triggered by traumatic events.

While it is often associated with experiences like war, accidents, or major disasters, workplace bullying can also provoke the onset of PTSD.

PTSD is a complex disorder that occurs in response to exposure to a traumatic event.

It can affect anyone, no matter their age or background.

The root cause of PTSD lies in the brain’s reaction to the traumatic event, leading to a disruption in the normal stress response system.

When an individual experiences a traumatic event, such as a car accident or witnessing violence, their brain goes into survival mode.

This triggers the release of stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol, preparing the body to fight, flee, or freeze.

In most cases, once the threat has passed, the stress response system returns to its normal state, and the individual can resume their daily life.

However, in the case of PTSD, the brain’s stress response system remains on high alert long after the traumatic event has ended.

This prolonged activation of the stress response system can lead to a range of symptoms that significantly impact an individual’s well-being and quality of life.

How PTSD Differs from Normal Stress

Unlike normal stress, which fades with time, PTSD lingers and affects various aspects of an individual’s life.

It creates a constant state of hypervigilance, making it challenging to relax or feel safe.

Moreover, PTSD symptoms can reappear even years after the traumatic event, causing distress and disrupting daily functioning.

One key difference between PTSD and normal stress is the intensity and duration of the symptoms.

While stressors in everyday life may cause temporary feelings of anxiety or unease, PTSD symptoms can be severe and persistent.

Individuals with PTSD often experience

  • intrusive thoughts,
  • nightmares,
  • flashbacks,
  • and emotional distress related to the traumatic event.

Furthermore, PTSD can have a profound impact on an individual’s relationships, work performance, and overall well-being.

It can lead to difficulties concentrating, irritability, and a heightened startle response.

These symptoms can make it challenging to maintain healthy relationships and engage in social activities, leading to feelings of isolation and loneliness.

It is important to note that not everyone who experiences a traumatic event will develop PTSD.

The development of the disorder depends on various factors, including

  • the severity of the trauma,
  • the individual’s support system,
  • and their overall resilience.

Seeking professional help and support from loved ones is crucial for individuals who are struggling with PTSD.

In conclusion, PTSD is a complex mental health condition that can arise in response to traumatic events.

It differs from normal stress in its intensity, duration, and impact on an individual’s life.

Understanding the causes and symptoms of PTSD is essential to providing appropriate support and treatment for those affected by this debilitating disorder.

What are the 17 PTSD symptoms?

Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is characterized by 17 symptoms, which can be grouped into three categories: intrusions, hyperarousal, and avoidance/numbing (Taylor, 1998).

According to Taylor, PTSD is currently viewed as an anxiety disorder exemplified by three clusters of symptoms that may follow from exposure to a traumatic life event (DSM-IV; American Psychiatric Association, 1994).

These three clusters, composed of seventeen symptoms, consist of

  • reexperiencing, (DSM-IV Criterion B; e.g., intrusive thoughts of the trauma),
  • avoidance and emotional numbing, (Criterion C; e.g., avoiding reminders of the trauma),
  • and hyperarousal (Criterion D, e.g., hypervigilance).


  • B1. Intrusive thoughts of trauma
  • B2. Recurrent dreams of trauma
  • B3. Flashbacks
  • B4. Emotional reactivity to trauma cues
  • B5. Physiological reactivity to trauma cues

Avoidance and Emotional Numbing

  • C1. Avoiding thoughts of trauma
  • C2. Avoiding reminders of trauma
  • C3. Inability to recall aspects of trauma
  • C4. Loss of interest
  • C5. Detachment
  • C6. Restricted affect
  • C7. Sense of foreshortened future


  • D1. Sleep disturbance
  • D2. Irritability
  • D3. Difficulty concentrating
  • D4. Hypervigilance
  • D5. Exaggerated startle response

These symptoms are highly associated with general distress, challenging the differentiation between PTSD-specific and general distress symptoms (Marshall, 2010).

PTSD is also associated with a range of somatic symptoms, including cardiovascular, respiratory, musculoskeletal, and gastrointestinal disorders (Gupta, 2013).

The disorder is precipitated by exposure to a psychologically distressing event, and its symptoms can be triggered by a variety of traumatic experiences (Sher, 2004).

The Link Between Workplace Bullying and PTSD

The Link Between Workplace Bullying and PTSD

Workplace bullying does not always result in PTSD, but it can certainly be a significant contributing factor.

Just as a drop of water can create ripples that spread far and wide, the effects of workplace bullying can permeate an individual’s life, leading to debilitating symptoms of PTSD from workplace bullying.

Workplace bullying is a pervasive issue that affects millions of individuals worldwide.

It can take various forms, including

  • verbal abuse,
  • intimidation,
  • humiliation,
  • and even physical aggression.

Constant exposure to such hostile behaviors can have a profound impact on a person’s mental and emotional well-being.

Imagine being in a constant battle where every day feels like you are walking on eggshells.

The persistent mistreatment and abuse gradually erode your self-esteem, leaving you feeling helpless and vulnerable.

The fear of the next attack or derogatory comment consumes your thoughts, making it difficult to focus on work or find any sense of peace.

These distressing experiences can become deeply ingrained, causing lasting psychological trauma and triggering the onset of PTSD.

Post-traumatic stress disorder is a mental health condition that typically develops after experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event.

While it is commonly associated with military combat and natural disasters, workplace bullying can also be a traumatic event that leaves lasting scars.

How Workplace Bullying Can Lead to PTSD

The psychological impact of workplace bullying goes beyond the immediate emotional distress.

Workplace bullying can lead to a range of symptoms associated with PTSD, including

  • intrusive thoughts,
  • flashbacks,
  • nightmares,
  • and intense anxiety.

The constant fear and hypervigilance experienced during the bullying episodes can create a state of heightened arousal, making it difficult for the individual to relax or feel safe even outside of work.

Furthermore, the social isolation and alienation that often accompany workplace bullying can exacerbate the development of PTSD.

Feeling ostracized by colleagues and unsupported by superiors can intensify the sense of helplessness and increase the risk of developing psychological trauma.

Factors That Increase the Risk of Developing PTSD

Just as each individual is unique, their susceptibility to developing PTSD also varies.

While some individuals may be more resilient and able to cope with workplace bullying, others may be more vulnerable to its detrimental effects.

Understanding these risk factors can help victims and organizations take preventive measures and provide support.

A history of trauma, whether in childhood or adulthood, can increase the risk of developing PTSD in response to workplace bullying.

Past experiences of abuse or neglect can make an individual more susceptible to the psychological impact of bullying, as it may trigger unresolved trauma and amplify feelings of powerlessness.

Prior mental health conditions, such as anxiety or depression, can also contribute to the development of PTSD.

Individuals with pre-existing vulnerabilities may find it harder to cope with the added stress of workplace bullying, making them more prone to experiencing long-lasting psychological trauma.

Another significant factor is the availability of social support.

Having a strong support system, both at work and in personal life, can act as a protective buffer against the negative effects of workplace bullying.

Conversely, a lack of support can intensify feelings of isolation and increase the risk of developing PTSD.

Recognizing the interconnectedness of workplace bullying and PTSD is crucial to addressing this pervasive issue.

Employers and organizations should prioritize creating a safe and supportive work environment, implementing anti-bullying policies, and providing resources for victims to seek help.

By taking proactive measures, we can work towards eliminating workplace bullying and minimizing its devastating consequences.

Common Symptoms of PTSD from Workplace Bullying

Recognizing the symptoms of PTSD is crucial for early intervention and effective management.

It is essential to understand that these symptoms can manifest differently in each individual, but they all revolve around three main categories: emotional, behavioral, and physical symptoms.

Emotional Symptoms

People experiencing PTSD may find themselves feeling overwhelmed by intense emotions such as

  • fear,
  • anger,
  • and sadness.

They may struggle with persistent feelings of

  • guilt or shame,
  • have difficulty concentrating,
  • and experience a sense of detachment from others.

Behavioral Symptoms

PTSD can profoundly impact an individual’s behavior, leading to changes

  • in their daily routines,
  • relationships,
  • and overall functioning.

They may become

  • irritable,
  • easily startled,
  • or hypervigilant.

Often, those with PTSD may withdraw from social activities and isolate themselves from others.

Physical Symptoms

The physical toll of workplace bullying and PTSD cannot be underestimated.

Individuals may experience

  • sleep disturbances,
  • including nightmares
  • and insomnia.

They may also suffer from

  • headaches,
  • muscle tension,
  • and gastrointestinal problems.

These physical symptoms are an embodiment of the psychological distress they are enduring.

What are Some Examples of PTSD in the Workplace?

PTSD in the workplace is a significant concern, particularly in high-risk professions such as emergency services (McFarlane, 2007).

The prevalence of PTSD in these occupations can range from 6% to 32% (McFarlane, 2009), and it is important to have strategies in place to anticipate and manage the effects of traumatic events (McFarlane, 2007).

Navigating PTSD in the Workplace: 5 Examples and a Bonus for Understanding and Support

Understanding and addressing PTSD in the workplace is crucial for fostering a supportive and empathetic environment.

Explore these examples and a bonus point for a deeper comprehension of PTSD-related challenges in professional settings.

  1. Trigger-Induced Anxiety Attacks
    • Insight: Employees may experience anxiety attacks triggered by specific sounds, smells, or environments reminiscent of traumatic events.
  2. Difficulty with Authority Figures
    • Insight: Individuals with PTSD may struggle with authority figures, experiencing heightened stress in hierarchical workplace structures.
  3. Hypervigilance and Startle Responses
    • Insight: PTSD can manifest as hypervigilance, leading to exaggerated startle responses to sudden noises or movements.
  4. Avoidance of Specific Tasks or Environments
    • Insight: Employees might avoid tasks or environments reminiscent of traumatic experiences to manage their emotional well-being.
  5. Difficulty Establishing Work-Life Balance
    • Insight: PTSD can impact one’s ability to establish a healthy work-life balance, leading to overworking or difficulty maintaining professional relationships.

Bonus Point – “Peer Support Programs”

  • Insight: Establish peer support programs to create a network of understanding colleagues.

Understanding and addressing PTSD in the workplace requires empathy, communication, and a commitment to fostering an inclusive environment where employees feel supported and understood.

Various interventions have been successful in helping individuals with PTSD return to work, including rehabilitative employment programs (Precin, 2011).

Factors such as mental health problems prior to the traumatic event and weak social support can increase the risk of work-related PTSD (Skogstad, 2013).

Therefore, a sound organizational and psychosocial work environment, as well as systematic training and social support, are crucial in preventing work-related PTSD (Skogstad, 2013).

Routine screening for those at risk has been suggested as a potential strategy for prevention and intervention (McFarlane, 2009).

Recognizing the Signs in Yourself or Others

Recognizing the signs of PTSD from workplace bullying is crucial for assisting oneself or others on the path to healing and recovery.

Awareness can be the first step toward creating a supportive and nurturing environment.

Self-Reflection and Awareness

It is important to take the time to reflect on your own experiences and emotions.

Are you constantly on edge or experiencing unexplained emotional turmoil?

Acknowledging these feelings may indicate that you have been affected by workplace bullying and could be on the road to developing PTSD.

Observing Changes in Behavior and Mood

If you notice significant changes in a colleague’s behavior, emotions, or overall demeanor, it may be a sign that they are struggling with workplace bullying-induced PTSD.

Approach them with empathy, offering a listening ear and support. Remember, even the smallest acts of kindness can make a profound difference in someone’s life.

In conclusion, recognizing the symptoms of PTSD arising from workplace bullying is essential for early intervention and effective support.

By understanding the various components of workplace bullying, the connection between workplace bullying and PTSD, and the common symptoms, we can work towards creating a safer and more compassionate environment for all.

Remember, your support and understanding can be a beacon of hope for someone who is experiencing the devastating effects of workplace bullying-induced PTSD.

8 Insights to Overcome Trauma from Workplace Bullying

Workplace bullying can leave lasting emotional scars, often leading to trauma.

Coping with this trauma requires innovative and unconventional approaches. Here are eight key insights to help you overcome the trauma of workplace bullying.

  1. Recognize the signs of workplace bullying:

    • Understanding the signs of workplace bullying is the first step.
    • Recognize behaviors like persistent criticism, humiliation, and exclusion.
    • Addressing it early can prevent trauma.
  2. Self-Compassion and Self-Care:

    • Practice self-compassion by treating yourself with kindness.
    • Engage in self-care rituals, such as daily meditation, a warm bath, or a hobby you enjoy, to nurture your emotional well-being.
  3. Journaling and Art Therapy:

    • Journaling can be a powerful tool for processing emotions.
    • Explore your feelings and experiences on paper.
    • For a creative approach, consider art therapy to express your emotions visually.
  4. Mindfulness and Relaxation Techniques:

    • Mindfulness, meditation and progressive muscle relaxation can help you manage stress and anxiety.
    • These practices promote emotional healing and resilience.
  5. Connect with supportive people:

    • Seek support from friends and family who can provide a safe space to discuss your experiences. Building a strong support system is essential for healing.
  6. Legal and HR Assistance:

    • Consider legal and HR options if workplace bullying persists. Sometimes, taking action can provide closure and protect others from similar experiences.
  7. Professional Therapy:

    • Trauma therapy, such as EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) or somatic experiencing, can help you process trauma at a deeper level, providing relief from its impact.
  8. Redefine Success and Self-Worth:

    • Reevaluate your definition of success, shifting the focus from external validation to personal growth and well-being.
    • Recognize that your self-worth is not determined by your workplace experiences.

Bonus Point: Advocate for Change

  • Use your experience to advocate for change. Support anti-bullying initiatives at your workplace or in your community. By helping to create a more respectful and inclusive environment, you can empower others and promote healing for yourself.

Workplace bullying can leave emotional scars, but with the right strategies, you can overcome the trauma it causes. Embrace unconventional and innovative approaches to healing and growth as you regain control of your well-being and build a brighter future.

Final Thoughts

As I conclude this exploration of recognizing the symptoms of PTSD resulting from workplace bullying, I’m filled with a mix of emotions—compassion for those who have endured such experiences, admiration for their resilience, and a fervent hope for a more empathetic and inclusive professional world.

In my opinion, workplace bullying is an issue that not only affects careers but profoundly impacts the mental well-being of individuals.

It’s high time we recognize this as a collective responsibility and stand in solidarity against the silence that perpetuates such behavior.

The symptoms we’ve discussed are not just warning signs; they are calls for empathy, support, and change.

Whether it’s understanding the signs of trauma, providing assistance, or fostering awareness, each step is a stride toward a more compassionate workplace.

I firmly believe that by acknowledging and addressing the symptoms of PTSD from workplace bullying, we are not only aiding those who are suffering but also creating a work environment that values mental health and safety.

In conclusion, let us remember that recognizing these symptoms is not just a gesture of kindness; it’s a commitment to ending workplace bullying and healing the scars it leaves behind.

Together, we can build a future where every individual is respected, protected, and given the opportunity to flourish in a safe and supportive professional setting.


Can you have PTSD from a toxic work environment?

Understanding the Impact of a Toxic Job on Mental Health

Research has shown that a toxic work environment can lead to work-related post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) (Lawson, 1987Schottenfeld, 1985Skogstad, 2013). This can manifest as a somatoform disorder, with specific exposure factors and personality characteristics playing a role (Schottenfeld, 1985).
Certain occupational groups, such as police officers, firefighters, and health care professionals, are particularly at risk (Skogstad, 2013).

How do you know if you have PTSD from work?

Recognizing PTSD in the Workplace

Work-related PTSD can significantly impact work performance, with symptoms including intrusive thoughts, nightmares, avoidance of trauma-related stimuli, and increased startle response (Phillips, 1997).
It is often comorbid with chronic pain and general negative affect (Asmundson, 1998), and is prevalent in high-risk professions such as police officers, firefighters, and health care professionals (Skogstad, 2013).
Impaired ability to perform work tasks is a common issue for those with work-related PTSD (Wald, 2009).
If you are experiencing these symptoms and work in a high-risk profession, it is important to seek professional help to determine if you have work-related PTSD.

What are the symptoms of work trauma?

PTSD from Workplace Trauma

Work trauma, often resulting from occupational accidents, can lead to a range of psychological symptoms, including anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (Ghisi, 2013).
These symptoms can significantly impact an individual’s career development, leading to dysfunctional career thoughts and a diminished work personality (Strauser, 2006).
The prevalence of PTSD symptoms, such as difficulties sleeping and increased anger, has been found to be high in workers’ compensation patients attending a work rehabilitation program (Burgess, 1996).

Can bullying cause PTSD?

Physical Health Consequences of Workplace Bullying

Yes, workplace bullying can contribute to the development of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
The continuous exposure to hostile behaviors such as verbal abuse, intimidation, humiliation, and social isolation in a workplace setting can lead to lasting psychological trauma.

How do you heal from workplace bullying?

A group of diverse employees standing together in solidarity

Recognize Signs in Yourself or Others. Employ Self-Compassion and Self-Care. Try Journaling and Art Therapy. Practice Mindfulness and Relaxation Techniques. Connect with Supportive People. Consider Legal and HR Assistance. Try Professional Therapy. Redefine Success and Self-Worth. Advocate for Change.

What are signs of PTSD at work?

Understanding PTSD - Causes, Symptoms, and Impact

There are 4 subgroups for PTSD Signs at work: Emotional, Behavioral, Physical, Work-related. Emotional Signs of PTSD at Work are Overwhelming Emotions, Persistent Guilt or Shame, Difficulty Concentrating, Sense of Detachment and Persistent Intrusive Thoughts.
Behavioral signs are Changes in Daily Routines, Avoidance of Trauma-Related Stimuli, Withdrawal from Social Activities, Increased Irritability and Hypervigilance.
Physical symptoms are Sleep Disturbances and Physical Ailments.
Work-related signs are Impaired Work Performance, Difficulty with Authority Figures, Difficulty Establishing Work-Life Balance.

What is possible reason for shattered self esteem?

A broken mirror reflecting shattered pieces of confidence and self-esteem

Workplace bullying is identified as a significant factor that can contribute to shattered self-esteem. Here are some reasons why workplace bullying may lead to a shattered self-esteem:
1.-Verbal Abuse and Humiliation
2.-Social Isolation
3.-Unjust Criticism
4.-Fear and Anxiety
5.-Lack of Support
6.-Long-lasting Psychological Trauma
7.-Repetition of Hostile Behaviors.
8.-Power Imbalance.

Can cyberbullying cause PTSD?

A broken computer screen with shattered pieces flying out

Yes, cyberbullying can contribute to the development of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Cyberbullying involves using electronic communication platforms to harass, intimidate, or spread rumors about an individual.
The anonymity provided by the internet can make it easier for bullies to target their victims without immediate consequences.
The psychological impact of workplace bullying, including cyberbullying, goes beyond immediate emotional distress and can result in symptoms associated with PTSD, such as intrusive thoughts, flashbacks, nightmares, and intense anxiety.

Can you go through ptsd after leaving toxic job?

A decaying

Yes, an individual can experience symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) after leaving a toxic job. Workplace bullying, which is a form of trauma, can lead to lasting psychological trauma and trigger the onset of PTSD. Even after leaving the toxic job, the effects of the trauma can persist. (Skogstad, 2013)

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