PTSD From Plant Closing?

By Kristina Randle, Ph.D., LCSW

I have been suffering from many of the symptoms of PTSD, but have never been in a situation in any of the outlines. I did spend close to two years working in a plant that was closing. I was in a position that dictated the schedule of the dismantling of the physical plant and had to deal with the people that were losing their jobs. People I worked with many years, some went peacefully others struggled to hang on then became angry and destructive. Since this time I have had trouble concentrating, sleeping, I feel guilty, I worry that it will happen again at my current job, I get angry for no real reason and I am jumpy as though I have been caught in the act of doing something wrong. I also went through my wife losing her job, subsequent bouts of her drinking, drugs and attempted suicide by first police threatening to shoot and then by drugs. Could I be suffering from some kind of PTSD?

A. PTSD commonly occurs after a traumatic event and can last for months or years after an incident occurs. If you experienced those two years of working in a closing plant as traumatic then it would be considered diagnostically “a traumatic event.” Because you perceived it as a traumatic event and due to the other symptoms that you mentioned, it is reasonable to believe that you may be suffering from PTSD.

As you mentioned in your letter, your experience was distressing. You said you worked at a plant that was closing and had to schedule the dismantling of the plant and also had to deal with people losing their jobs. As you witnessed, many of those individuals had difficultly, understandably, leaving their jobs. One thing that is not clear from your letter is whether you had worked in the plant too before you were asked to participate in the closing process.

Unfortunately, many Americans are experiencing job loss. The latest jobs report showed that unemployment rose to 6.7%, worse than previously expected.

Psychologically having a job is important and losing one’s job can be devastating. Without a job, many people feel inadequate or believe that they have nothing to offer society and subsequently become depressed. For a large majority of people, their job defines who they are; it brings meaning, organization and stability to their lives. On a pragmatic level, losing a job can mean losing health care, financial stability, the chance to retire with dignity and much more.

Many factory workers work their entire adult lives for a company. Sometimes generations of families work at the same plant. Being laid off and having to physically dismantle the plant has be extremely demoralizing. And having to witness that take place and being part of that process, as you were, understandably, has negatively impacted you, to the point where you may have PTSD.

After your experiences with the plant closing, it is understandable that you would be concerned about losing another job or have trouble concentrating, sleeping or to be angry and jumpy. You also said that your wife has recently lost her job as well as experienced some traumatic events of her own. Having to deal with all of these unfortunate events must be difficult for both you and your wife.

It’s normal to have some reaction to the events you experienced but if you continue to suffer with PTSD symptoms then you should consider seeking professional assistance. PTSD is very treatable and the treatment usually consists of either medication or psychotherapy, both of which have been found to be effective.

I am sorry that you are having a difficult time and if you can, please try to seek help. Thanks for writing and please consider writing back and letting me know how you are doing.

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 8 Dec 2008

APA Reference
Randle, K. (2008). PTSD From Plant Closing?. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 25, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2008/12/08/ptsd-from-plant-closing/