Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in the Workplace

An estimated 8 percent of Americans—roughly 24.4 million — suffer from PTSD-Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. This is equal to the entire population of the state of Texas. An estimated one in nine women will develop PTSD in their lifetime, making them twice as likely as men to experience the disorder.

According to the National Institutes of Health, Department of Veteran Affairs, and Sidran Institute, the societal and economic burden of PTSD is extremely heavy.

PTSD is recognized as a psychobiological mental disorder that can affect survivors not only of combat experience, but also terrorist attacks, natural disasters, serious accidents, assault or abuse, or even sudden and major emotional losses.

People experiencing PTSD often notice its effects in the workplace.  Oftentimes, the level of success one has at his or her place of employment depends on many factors including the level of impairment, and support both outside and inside the work environment.  Accommodations that employers implement may be the same as for other individuals who need short-term, or occasionally longer-term support for other issues in order to be a successful employee.

The good news is that individuals with PTSD are successful on a daily basis, with and without support.  A diagnosis of PTSD or other mental health diagnoses need not prevent an individual from being successful in work, and in life in general.  It is always important to treat every employee as an individual and work on their strengths and weaknesses.

Tips for Employers and Supervisors to successfully assist those experiencing PTSD include:

  • Identify what specific tasks may be challenging. At times, PTSD symptoms may manifest themselves in cognitive challenges. An employee may need more time to finish a task or need an office which has fewer distractions.


  • Identify specifically how you can assist. The best way to find out how you can assist someone is to ask. This may be something that develops over time as the employee may not be aware of limitations until he or she runs into them. An open dialogue about how the employer can assist would be helpful from the beginning.


  • Evaluate the effectiveness of the environment and the employee. If there are times that the employee is having a hard time or tasks that are not up to standards, speak directly to that employee about how you can assist them. Providing gentle and immediate feedback will allow the employee to determine what is needed to get the task back up to standards.


  • Provide training for coworkers and supervisors. By providing training on PTSD and related symptoms, the other staff members can also be educated on how to help the individual. Sensitivity training may be needed on topics that are related to PTSD.


The State Department of Veteran Affairs in Washington provides information and resources for those experiencing PTSD, such as an Outpatient Counseling Provider List:

and additional services for veterans and their families

or contact NAMI for your local Washington chapter of National Alliance on Mental Illness for additional resources for employees and employers