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Jobs for People with PTSD

Tiffany Meehan (She/Her/Disabled), VP of Marketing
Originally published December 3, 2023
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Updated on January 16th, 2024 Understanding Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is essential in today’s atmosphere, especially when it comes to career development and job satisfaction. PTSD can significantly influence an individual’s career path and choices. Creating a work environment that acknowledges the condition and actively supports the healing and growth of individuals experiencing PTSD becomes crucial. This introduction aims to shed light on how PTSD can interact with professional life and underscores the need for workplaces that offer understanding and tips for accommodations. PTSD is a mental health condition triggered by experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event. At work, triggers can vary widely, from high-stress situations to specific interactions that may recall past trauma. It’s critical to dispel common myths, such as the idea that people with PTSD are unable to function in a job setting, and to understand the reality of working with PTSD, which includes the potential for highly productive and successful careers under the right conditions and with the right accommodations. In this article, we will explore the various aspects of navigating the professional world with PTSD, including recognizing suitable job environments, tips for making necessary workplace accommodations, and how to leverage support systems. We’ll delve into strategies for managing PTSD, identify careers that can be particularly well-suited to those living with PTSD, and highlight success stories that illustrate the potential for fulfilling work life despite the challenges of PTSD.  

Workplace Accommodations for PTSD

If you have PTSD, understanding how job accommodations can help you is important. It’s not just about staying we­ll, but also about succeeding in your job with the tools to succeed. As an employee, you should know your rights and talk openly about your ne­eds with your employer. Conside­r different solutions that might work for you. For example, employees might find it helpful to negotiate fle­xible working hours so they can go to therapy sessions. Requesting a quiet workspace can help lower the chance­s of becoming overstimulated. Or perhaps remote working might make managing anxie­ty a bit easier. Knowing your legal rights is also re­ally crucial for employees with PTSD and a disability. American laws, such as the Americans with Disabilitie­s Act (ADA), are put in place to stand up for individuals with disabilities, including those­ who live with PTSD disability. The ADA aims to make sure that bosses have provided suitable adaptations at work and help to se­t up a welcoming job environment where your needs are­ recognized, giving you a space to grow personally and professionally.  

Assessing Career Options

It’s vital to consider roles that offer a supportive environment and align with the individual’s interests. PTSD-friendly careers typically offer a sense of control, predictable routines, and minimal exposure to stress-inducing situations. Jobs that provide clear structure and do not involve sudden, unexpected changes are often more suitable. Personal interest and job satisfaction play a pivotal role in this assessment. Engaging in meaningful and satisfying work can have therapeutic effects, offering a sense of purpose and accomplishment. It is beneficial for individuals with PTSD to identify careers that not only accommodate their needs but also resonate with their passions and strengths. Finding this alignment can contribute to long-term career success and personal well-being.  

Suitable Careers for Individuals with PTSD

For individuals managing PTSD, finding jobs that provide a healing workplace is crucial. Careers that minimize exposure to high-pressure situations and allow for autonomy can be particularly beneficial. Jobs that offer flexibility, like the ability to work from home or have control over one’s schedule, can also contribute significantly to a comfortable work environment for someone with PTSD. Some suitable career paths may include roles in graphic design, where creativity can be a therapeutic outlet, or positions in programming and IT that often offer the option to work remotely. Library science is another field that typically provides a quiet, structured environment conducive to concentration without overstimulation. For those who find comfort in helping others, careers in counseling or social work might be fulfilling, provided that the individual has access to proper support and can manage their triggers effectively.  

Transition Strategies for PTSD-affected Individuals

Transitioning to a new career or re-entering the workforce after being diagnosed with PTSD requires a strategic approach. Assessing one’s skills and understanding how they can be applied to new opportunities is essential. A career counselor can assist in identifying transferable skills and offer guidance on articulating these skills to potential employers.  

Resources and Support for Job Seekers with PTSD

There is a wealth of resources available for job seekers with PTSD. Organizations such as the Department of Veterans Affairs offer programs specifically designed to help veterans with PTSD find employment. Counseling services can provide personalized guidance and support throughout the job search process. Additionally, professional networking groups and community support forums can be invaluable, offering shared experiences and opportunities that cater to individuals with PTSD. It’s important to utilize these resources not only to find suitable employment but also to build a supportive network that understands the unique challenges of working with PTSD. Employers and individuals need to work together to tailor roles that accommodate any specific needs related to PTSD while also playing to the individual’s professional strengths and interests.  

Best Practices For Creating a Supportive Workplace

Living with PTSD as an employee can be quite challenging. To better navigate the workplace, it’s really important to have supportive work conditions as it can greatly improve your overall well-being and job satisfaction. It is recommended to seek out employers who place importance on employee needs and adopt PTSD-frie­ndly practices. Try to find workplaces that have fle­xible policies – like adaptable­ work schedules, quiet space­s for when you need a moment of calm, and the option to work remotely if re­quired. Moreover, it’s a big plus if workplaces put a focus on employee­ training programs that boost the knowledge about PTSD, its signs, and the­ strategies to lend a hand to co-workers efficiently. Sele­cting an employer that prioritizes your me­ntal health and earnestly e­ndeavors for an inclusive working environment can lead to a more enjoyable­ and rewarding work life for you.  

Eye Contact in the Workplace

For individuals with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), certain aspects of everyday professional interactions can be challenging. One such aspect is non-verbal communication, particularly eye contact. While it is often considered a key component of effective communication, it can be a source of discomfort or anxiety for those with PTSD. Eye contact can be particularly challenging for people with PTSD due to various reasons. For some, it might trigger memories of traumatic events, while others may find it overwhelming or overly intimate, leading to increased anxiety or discomfort in professional settings. Recognizing and understanding these challenges is the first step.  

Tips for Employees with PTSD

For employees with PTSD, managing eye contact in professional settings can be a gradual process. Here are some strategies: Communicate Your Needs: If comfortable, communicate your preferences regarding eye contact to your colleagues and supervisors. This can help in creating a more understanding environment. Practice and Gradual Exposure: Gradually increase your comfort level with eye contact. Start with brief eye contact and slowly extend the duration as per your comfort level. Focus on Non-Threatening Eye Contact: Initially, try to make eye contact with people you feel more comfortable with. This can be a less stressful way to practice.  

Understanding and Managing Workplace Anxiety with PTSD

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) often goes hand in hand with anxiety, particularly in the workplace. For individuals with PTSD, everyday work scenarios, from meeting deadlines to interacting with colleagues, can trigger anxiety. Understanding how this anxiety manifests is crucial for both the individual and their employer. Anxiety stemming from PTSD can present in various ways in a work environment:
  • Heightened Stress in Certain Situations: Routine work situations, like presentations or team meetings, may induce disproportionate stress.
  • Difficulty Concentrating: Persistent anxious thoughts can hinder concentration, impacting work performance.
  • Sensitivity to Work Environment: Noisy or busy work surroundings might exacerbate anxiety symptoms.
Recognizing and managing workplace anxiety associated with PTSD is a shared responsibility. Through personal coping strategies and employer support, individuals with PTSD can navigate their professional lives more comfortably, contributing to a healthier, more productive work environment.  

Service Dogs for PTSD

Service dogs can be a transformative aid for individuals with PTSD, offering not just companionship but also a unique form of support in managing daily challenges. These specially trained animals can detect signs of anxiety or distress and provide immediate comfort, helping to alleviate symptoms such as panic attacks or flashbacks. In the workplace, the presence of a service dog can offer a sense of security and stability, enabling individuals with PTSD to navigate their work environment more effectively. From an employer’s perspective, accommodating service dogs is not just a compassionate gesture but also a legal obligation under laws like the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Employers are required to make reasonable accommodations for employees with disabilities, including allowing service dogs in the workplace.  The impact of service dogs on the professional lives of individuals with PTSD can be profound. For example, a veteran struggling with PTSD might find it challenging to cope with the typical stresses of a regular office job. With the support of a service dog, this individual could experience reduced anxiety levels, leading to improved concentration and a more positive interaction with colleagues.  By providing emotional support and helping to mitigate anxiety and stress, these animals can significantly enhance the workplace experience for those they assist. Employers, by understanding and upholding the legal rights pertaining to service animals and making necessary accommodations, can contribute to a more inclusive and supportive work environment.  

Balancing Privacy and Support in the Workplace

Privacy is a paramount concern for employees with PTSD, as it involves managing sensitive personal information while seeking necessary workplace accommodations. For employers, respecting and maintaining confidentiality is key. This means handling any disclosed information about an employee’s PTSD with the utmost discretion and ensuring that any discussions about accommodations remain private. Employers should create an atmosphere where employees feel safe to share their needs without fear of judgment or unwanted disclosure. For employees with PTSD, requesting accommodations doesn’t require divulging detailed personal information. It’s enough to explain how certain adjustments, like a quieter workspace or flexible scheduling, could enhance their work performance. A private and secure workspace can be especially beneficial, offering a controlled environment that minimizes stressors and distractions. This can lead to improved focus and productivity, ultimately benefiting both the employee and the organization.  

Conclusion

The journey to finding the right profession for those with PTSD is not just about the individual adjusting to the job; it’s about creating a supportive work culture that acknowledges and accommodates their needs. It’s a collaborative pathway that involves employers, colleagues, and the individuals themselves, each playing a role in fostering nurturing work conditions. For individuals with PTSD, the community, and employers: Let’s open the channels of communication and support. If you or someone you know is navigating PTSD, reach out to the resources available and share your journey. Employers, take the initiative to learn more about PTSD and implement supportive practices in your workplace. By working together, we can build a more inclusive and understanding work environment for everyone.  

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