PTSD can be caused by four broad categories of trauma. PTSD wounds our souls. We usually think of rape or military service or natural disasters as causing PTSD. Yet, a question I sometimes get is, “Can I get PTSD from my civilian job?” (This essay was expanded on 24 Jan 2010)
The short answer is “Yes”
Does It Matter How I Got PTSD?
PTSD does not care how you got traumatised. It just cares that you did get traumatised and then it tries to isolate and harm you. If you get PTSD from a civilian employment situation, you still get to experience the same PTSD symptoms and PTSD-Identity that soldiers and veterans get.
When I listen to military veterans, rape survivors, and others, they almost all exhibit similar PTSD symptoms. But they all got PTSD producing trauma in individual and different ways. Hopefully, as American society matures, we will realize the point is not how did I get PTSD, but that I have PTSD. People who have their souls wounded by PTSD, regardless of how they got it, need our prayers and compassion. Some of them will also need medical treatment for symptoms.
Compassion Deficit Disorder
When dealing with my own PTSD, and when I help others realize they have value in spite of their PTSD, I still frequently find people (who have usually not suffered much themselves) judging what sort of trauma is worthy of PTSD and hence, their compassion. If someone is in pain, they are worthy of our compassion.
But what about compassion deniers who themselves suffered from real trauma in their own lives? Sometime people will suffer from compassion deficit disorder because when they suffered people showed them zero compassion. They were told to just get on with it, or quit whining. That treatment added to their own suffering. Unfortunately, they then fell into the trap of treating others with the same lack of compassion. When we recognise someone else’s suffering and can be compassionate, not only do we help them heal, but we heal a little more ourselves.
The PTSD-Identity wants to deny our own need for compassion and it denies that anyone else needs compassion. It knows that your soul will start to heal if you allow yourself to be compassionate.
PTSD From Civilian Jobs?
If your job routinely involves trauma then you can easily acquire PTSD from your job. Firefighters, police officers, emergency room technicians and paramedics can all be at heightened risk for PTSD.
Trauma From “Non-Emergency” Jobs?
This has more to do with the work environment, the sort of culture that the company allowed to develop.
Employment which is high stress, high risk, or with horrible supervisors or co-workers can all cause PTSD in their ways. If your co-workers are sexist or racists, that produces stress. If your boss is a screamer or sets you up to fail, that is also difficult to deal with.
PTSD risks beyond the job’s culture happens when trauma shows up unexpectedly. Then PTSD can be acquired in jobs that are not normally considered as emergency work. In fact, if your job is one that we don’t expect to be stressful or traumatic, we can be caught off guard and even more easily harmed when things get horrible. For example, a bank teller is not an emergency trauma worker. If there is a shooting in the bank, the tellers can get PTSD.
Harrassment Can Cause PTSD
If your employment culture allows you to be harrassed, then you can get PTSD. Work place law even recognises that verbal harrassment is a criminal offense and companies have paid substantial fines for allowing it. Subtle discrimination on the job can also traumatize a person, especially when every job is at risk due to the “profit first, people never” machinations of Wall Street financiers and moving our manufacturing jobs out of the country.
Harrasment, on the job or not, is always despicable. In some cases it will traumatise us so deeply as to wound our soul and hinder our ability to have proper relationships.
Business Uncertainty and Unemployment Are Trauma Producing
The recession can cause PTSD for some people. The stresses of round after round of layoffs is a traumatic experience. It is traumatic to be laid off (fired?) from your job. It is stressful and traumatic waiting to see if your name is on the next list of people who are dismissed.
Being unemployed can also cause trauma. Applying for unemployment or welfare is stigmatized in American society. Even if you lose your job through no fault of your own, people act as if you are a leper. And if you have kids who are members of the “Entitlement Generation,” then not having the money (or the credit) to keep them in clothes and electronics can also be traumatic.
PTSD is Not Inevitable
We are not all fated to get PTSD. Yet, we are all at risk of being traumatized. Knowing that it can happen and that PTSD is a normal outcome of trauma can help us more easily heal.
Regardless of how we get the soul wound of PTSD, we still need prayer and hope. We still need compassion and forgiveness.
Semper Pax, Dr. Z