Dealing with Bullies at Work May Eventually Harm Your Health
Short temper. Numbed emotions. Sleepless nights. All these are symptoms of post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD), a condition often associated with people who have experienced the horrors of war. Why, then, are you reading about this condition in a newsletter about bullying in the workplace?
It turns out that individuals dealing with bullies at work can also experience this disorder. In fact, medical professionals tell us that post-traumatic stress syndrome, or PTSD, is a condition that can develop following any traumatic, catastrophic life experience. When you think about the injuries you sustained as a result of being bullied –to your professionalism, your confidence and your emotional well-being–don’t you agree that you, too, have been at war?
But, you say, you “fought” the war and finally, when you realized you’d never win. (Like a leopard, a bully never changes her spots). You left your job. Why do you feel upset and “not yourself” a month, or a year, later?
Look at the word “post-traumatic” for a moment. The term recognizes that sufferers may have a delayed reaction to the trauma. During the time you faced the bully in your everyday work life, you had to concentrate totally on that relationship. It consumed you, both on and off the job. You were always in a state of readiness known as “fight or flight.” You never knew where the next “blow” would come from. If all this sounds like situations a soldier faces, that’s not a coincidence. You, too, were fighting a war.
When you left, you thought you were free and may have experienced a relief from tension, at least for a while. Unfortunately, the memories often return. Many feelings that you had to suppress in order to go to work everyday–low self-esteem, anger and fear, for example–can now play themselves out on your emotions. And they do.
How do you know if you’re experiencing PTSD? Psychologists say to look for the following symptoms:
• Nightmares or daytime flashback of the events
• Physical reactions, such as rapid heart rate or sweating
• Detachment from others
• Restricted range of feelings
• Outbursts of anger
• Difficulty concentrating
Those who have suffered from PTSD report building a fortress around their emotions to shield themselves from feeling the pain of the events they had experienced. In the process they shut everyone out with it.
Now you know: PTSD can visit you, just as it does any other person who has survived a traumatic, catastrophic life experience. Of course, not everyone who is dealing with bullies at work is a candidate for PTSD. PTSD is serious and usually requires skilled counseling and/or medication. If those options themselves sound scary, they needn’t be. Imagine how it would be to “feel like “yourself” again? Wouldn’t it be worth some effort to find out what’s causing your painful symptoms? Remember, you deserve to be your wonderful, beautiful self that you were created to be.
Valerie Cade, Founder
Bully Free at Work