Three Ways PTSD Might Be Affecting You at Work

Trauma affects us in so many ways—as trauma survivors, it can be hard to keep up with all the places it shows up in our lives! Check out this list and see if any of these patterns sound familiar. And remember, it’s not your fault if you didn’t realize your trauma was following you to work . No one teaches us this stuff! Once we have more awareness and support, we then have the power to decide if we want to make changes in our lives.

1.     You feel trapped in your job.

During traumatic events, we often either feel or are actually trapped. Even though we may be in safer evnironments now, it can be hard for our nervous system to realize that and to remember that we can leave situations more easily, that we have more choice in our circumstances, especially if we tend towards the freeze response.

Now I’m not denying that changing jobs can be tricky sometimes for a multitude of reasons. However, it’s a good idea to check in with yourself to see if you are actually as trapped as you feel you are. Even the act of looking at other job listings or putting in applications can be a reminder to your nervous system that you have some freedom of movement. Or reminding yourself that you could quit—not that it’s a great option, especially if you don’t have savings to support you—but just remembering that you’re choosing to be there.

2.     You leave jobs quickly (sometimes within hours).

Some of us tend towards freeze, but we can also tend to go into flight. This might be you if you find that you quit jobs at the first hint of a hint of a hint of discomfort, negativity, or conflict. Sometimes this is a good thing, since there are scammy jobs and cruel unreasonable bosses out there. But if you find this is a consistent pattern and that your resumé is looking like a Walgreens receipt, it might be time to reassess.

For those of us who tend towards flight, it might be useful to create a checklist of dealbreakers. These are things that are clearly abusive, dangerous, or signs of a scam. You can find examples of warning signs here and here. Then there’s a concrete list you can go to when you start feeling like running that can help you determine if you should give it another day or week or month. Remember, you can always run later if you need to!

3.     You apologize for breathing.

Especially for those of us who have been in an abusive relationship or family of some kind, apologizing comes as naturally and often as breathing. In fact, we might even apologize FOR breathing! This habit may have kept us safer in those dangerous situations, but it isn’t necessary in a healthy workplace. In fact, it might even be detrimental to our work life.

How to cut back on the apologizing? Awareness is a great start. It can be eye-opening to track for one day how often you apologize. And what you apologize for. I’ve heard people apologize for sneezing (which is an automatic bodily function), for having to use the bathroom, for bumping into a wall (apologizing to the wall), for speaking in a meeting that they were invited to attend….you get the idea. Another interesting experiment is to replace “I’m sorry” with “Thank you”; for example, instead of saying “I’m sorry for being late,” you can say “Thank you for your patience.”

Remember, you’re healing and that takes time. Have mercy on yourself as you try out new ways of being in the workplace. If you need some help figuring it out, let me know. You can learn more and contact me at Here’s to more good days at work!


Image by Nicole Honeywill