Workplace Bullying Trauma: PTSD and PTED

There is recognition that workplace bullying has a dramatic impact on the mental health of an individual, and in the case of trauma, psychologist are trying to develop definitions to better describe the impact of it.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder arrived on the psychology scene as a recognized disorder in the post-Vietnam era when many American soldiers had a very difficult time re-emerging into North American life.

Workplace Bullying and Post-Traumatic Stress

The symptoms are often shared by employees who have experienced workplace bullying – such hyper vigilance, anxiety, anger, sleep disturbance, and intrusive memories of an event.

But PTSD symptoms are related to a short-term or single traumatic event such as accidents, natural disasters, assault and attempted murder and rape.

Many employees suffer workplace bullying have more in common with victims of long term abuse that may last for several years such as prisoners of war, victims of long-term domestic violence, repeated and severe physical abuse, and childhood sexual abuse.

Long Term Traumas of Workplace Bullying

During long-term traumas, people are held in physical and/or emotional captivity. They are under the influence of their abuser and unable to get out of the situation they are in.

This is the definition that is behind Complex-PTSD, which is not a recognized diagnosis in the current Diagnostic and Statistical Manual.

According to Julia M. Whealin, Ph.D. and Laurie Slone, Ph.D., in the May 22, 2007 version of the US Department of Veterans Affairs site the symptoms of Complex PTSD, include:

  • Persistent sadness, explosive anger;
  • Inhibited anger; suicidal thoughts;
  • Forgetting traumatic  events or reliving them;
  • Feeling detached from one’s mind or body;
  • Feelings of helplessness, shame, guilt and stigma;
  • One may feel that they are different than other people;
  • Attributing total power to the abuser;
  • Preoccupation with the perpetrator, possibly becoming obsessed with revenge;
  • Social isolation, distrust in others or repeatedly searching for a rescuer;
  • Loss of faith or a sense of hopelessness and despair;
  • Alcohol/other substances  abuse to avoid and/or numb feelings/thoughts associated with trauma; and
  • Self-mutilating and/or other types of self-injurious behaviors.

In another condition, employees who become so angry and embittered by their workplace bullying experiences are unable to move forward in their lives. Identified as Post-Traumatic Embitterment Disorder (PTED)  it reflects research by Dr. Michael Linden, a Berlin psychiatrist.

Intense fear about life-threatening events

He proposed recognition of this disorder in the Diagnostic Statistical Manual (DSM) after research he did with Germans after the fall of the Berlin wall. It is not an official formal diagnosis, but provides an important breakthrough in understanding trauma.

In his 2003 paper, Dr. Linden noted that PTED is similar to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), except those with PTSD suffer intense fear and anxiety after experiencing a life-threatening event.

Those with PTED were hard-working and mentally healthy people until a triggering event destroyed their core values and shattered their basic beliefs.




Photo: © Creative Commons by A Girl With Tea

Illustration by S Hunt Sound Development Productions

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