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Can Workplace Stress Cause PTSD?

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From Australia: So I worked in an industry which is well known for boasting a “toxic” work environment for some 5 years. Throughout this time, I loved my job and was somewhat ignorant to the way that I was treated until it got pretty bad and I developed a career ending injury. For the 4th and 5th year of my career, I was not treated with respect, there was no sign of appreciation for all of those extra hours I put, or level of reliability despite illness and injury. My was not a nice person, and my manger became even worse to the point where I could no longer ask them questions as I knew the abuse would follow.

Then when I developed this injury, there was no support for me, the career that I had loved and put so much time and effort into was about to be ripped away from me, which basically alienated me from the rest of them as I began working in a less physical part of the workplace. I hated my situation, I hated my life, I would often go home and breakdown, I was in so much physical and psychological pain that I had begun to close myself off to everyone outside of work. Long story short, I live with chronic pain, but I got out of that workplace.

I am now in a new career, a new city, my pain for the most part manageable. I like my new job. But my boss and management are not great. They’re not abusive, but every time I hear from my boss, it feels like all of the blame is on me, I always feel like I am or have done something wrong. When something happens, the boss changes my shift without notice, or ignores my message regarding a vehicle safety issue, I feel an overwhelming amount of emotion flood my mind and it feels somewhat out of control.

There is a lot to this I guess, but I am wondering, can this level of stress cause some form of PTSD, or it something else that I am feeling. I just want to have a better understanding of why I feel so overwhelmed in these situations. What I can maybe do to minimise it all..

Thanks in advance

Can Workplace Stress Cause PTSD?

Answered by on -


This is a very good question. I’m sure there are many people who can relate. Of course, any traumatizing situation can cause PTSD, but you would need the evaluation from a mental health counselor to determine if that is what is going on for you.

It’s also possible that you are still recovering from a terrible work experience. There is a saying: “People don’t quit jobs, they quit bosses”. It points to the fact that even the most wonderful job in the world can become poisonous if the leader is divisive, unappreciative, disrespectful, and/or disorganized. You experienced the creeping effects of being mistreated over a period of time. It is not at all unusual for people to not understand what is happening for awhile. No one expects to be mistreated. Often the enthusiasm for the job blinds people to the negative interpersonal dynamics — at least at first.

It makes sense to me that you are having trouble trusting that your new situation is any different, or at least different enough. It makes sense to me that you may be over-personalizing comments by your new boss. On the other hand, there may be red flags that your don’t trust yourself enough to heed. Of course you are anxious.

Regardless of whether you meet the criteria for PTSD, you deserve some support and practical help for sorting through the past and for being realistically alert for a situation that isn’t healthy for you. For that reason, I think a few sessions with a mental health counselor or your Employee Assistance Program would be beneficial. I hope you will take yourself seriously and make an appointment soon.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

Can Workplace Stress Cause PTSD?

Therapists live, online right now, from BetterHelp:

Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

Dr. Marie is licensed as both a psychologist and marriage and family counselor. She specializes in couples and family therapy and parent education. Follow her on Facebook or Twitter.

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2018). Can Workplace Stress Cause PTSD?. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 7, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 20 Sep 2018 (Originally: 22 Sep 2018)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 20 Sep 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.