Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition that can develop after experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event. Traumatic events can include military combat, physical or sexual assault, natural disasters, or serious accidents.
Symptoms of PTSD can include intrusive thoughts, flashbacks, hypervigilance and irritability and anger at the slightest provocation, feelings of detachment and avoidance behaviours, and negative changes in mood or thinking.
However, there are things those living with PTSD can look for in a job and jobs that might best suit an individual with PTSD.
Read more about PTSD.
How does PTSD impact work?
PTSD can have a significant impact on a person's ability to work. Individuals with PTSD may struggle with concentration, memory, and decision-making, which can affect job performance.
Additionally, the symptoms of PTSD can make it challenging to handle stress and meet the demands of a job.
At times, people experiencing PTSD may need additional time off work to reduce symptoms and support their recovery. Without a supportive employer, it can make it more difficult to stay in a job long-term.
What to look for in a job if you have PTSD
If you experience PTSD, it’s important to find a job and a workplace that support your ongoing recovery.
Some things to consider when looking for the best job for you include:
Avoiding triggers: Firstly, it is important to find a job that does not involve frequent exposure to triggering situations or environments.
This will be unique to you and your experience.
For some people this may mean avoiding jobs in emergency services. For others it might mean avoiding jobs that cause exposure to inclement weather or traffic chaos.
You are best placed to know and understand your triggers, and to know which jobs and workplaces would be best to avoid.
Finding a job that offers positive work-life balance: When looking for the best job for you or someone you know who is experiencing PTSD, it is also important to consider the work schedule, workload and overall work culture. A job with a demanding workload or high-pressure environment may worsen symptoms of PTSD. This means it is important to find a job that allows for a healthy work-life balance and offers a positive and supportive team culture free from discrimination and harassment.
Finding a supportive employer: Another important factor to consider is the level of support and flexibility the workplace offers.
An understanding and supportive employer can make a significant difference in managing symptoms of PTSD. This may include the ability to take time off when needed, access to mental health resources and support, and accommodations in the workplace such as reduced hours or modified duties.
Not all individuals with PTSD will have the same experiences or find the same jobs to be helpful. However, it's essential to find a job that is well-suited to an individual's unique needs and preferences.
However, the industries and jobs mentioned below may offer a range of benefits for individuals with PTSD.
Research suggests that individuals with PTSD who work in counselling or therapy may have a better chance of recovery and symptom reduction than those who do not work in these fields (1).
Nurse or health care worker
Roles in healthcare offer benefits for individuals with PTSD. In particular, jobs that involve patient care, such as nursing, can provide a sense of fulfillment and purpose.
Studies have also found that working in healthcare can have a positive impact on mental health outcomes for individuals with PTSD (2).
A massage therapy role might provide a calming and healing environment for individuals with PTSD.
Massage therapists work in a variety of settings, including spas, health clinics, and sports facilities.
They can also work in a freelance capacity, meaning the role can provide the flexibility that is typically beneficial for those with PTSD.
Creative jobs can provide the opportunity to work flexibly while also harnessing the therapeutic benefits of creative expression.
Creative activities can provide an outlet for emotions and help individuals express themselves in new ways.
Freelance work and writing can provide flexibility and control over one's work schedule, which can be helpful for those with PTSD.
This job may be especially appealing for individuals with PTSD who prefer to work independently and have a passion for writing.
In addition, writing can be therapeutic and provide an outlet for emotions. Research has found that expressive writing can have a positive impact on PTSD symptoms (3).
Like freelance writing, photography can be a creative and therapeutic outlet for individuals with PTSD.
Photographers can also work independently or for a company and can specialise in a variety of fields, including nature, portrait, and event photography.
Similar to the other jobs listed above, art and design roles can provide therapeutic benefits for people with PTSD.
Studies have found that art therapy can be effective in reducing PTSD symptoms and improving quality of life (4).
Individuals with PTSD who have a passion for art and design may find a graphic design role to be fulfilling.
Working outdoors in nature can be therapeutic for individuals with PTSD. Exposure to natural environments has been found to decrease symptoms of PTSD such as intrusive thoughts, fight-or-flight responses and avoidance behaviours.
The roles listed below typically provide an opportunity to work outdoors or in various environments and may also offer flexible working hours.
Jobs in trades and construction can offer structure and stability for individuals with PTSD. These jobs require physical labour and attention to detail, which can provide a sense of purpose and accomplishment.
Landscapers and gardeners are responsible for maintaining and beautifying outdoor spaces, which can be a peaceful and calming environment for individuals with PTSD.
Like time in nature, exercise has been shown to have a positive impact on mental health, making a fitness-related job an excellent option for individuals with PTSD.
Fitness trainers work in a variety of settings, including gyms, health clubs, and community centres and like many of the roles listed above, can be done in a flexible, freelance capacity if needed.
Animal caretaker or Groomer
Working with animals can be a calming and therapeutic experience for individuals with PTSD.
Animal caretakers typically work in shelters, kennels, or veterinary clinics, and are responsible for feeding, bathing, and exercising animals. This job can be especially rewarding for individuals who have a passion for animals.
Animal grooming roles may also offer similar therapeutic benefits, and an opportunity to work on your own, providing that additional flexibility that can be helpful for people with PTSD.
PTSD can have a significant impact on a person's ability to work. However, there are many jobs that can accommodate the needs of individuals with PTSD and provide a sense of purpose and fulfilment.
Seeking the advice of a mental health professional can also be helpful in finding a suitable job and managing PTSD symptoms in the workplace.
If you are living with PTSD, the jobs listed above may provide some inspiration, but don’t forget to review the job as a whole – are both the workplace and employer supportive?
It’s important to be confident they will make reasonable accommodations including flexible work schedules and access to additional support to help you manage your symptoms and succeed in the job?
(1) Maercker, A., Horn, A. B., & Becker, M. P. (2013). Professions associated with PTSD risk and symptoms in career soldiers of the German Armed Forces. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, 18(3), 330–342. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0032985
(2) Milliken, C. S., Auchterlonie, J. L., & Hoge, C. W. (2007). Longitudinal assessment of mental health problems among active and reserve component soldiers returning from the Iraq war. JAMA, 298(18), 2141–2148. https://doi.org/10.1001/jama.298.18.2141
(3) Smyth, J. M., Hockemeyer, J. R., & Tulloch, H. (2008). Expressive
(4) Berman, M. G., Jonides, J., & Kaplan, S. (2008). The cognitive benefits of interacting with nature. Psychological Science, 19(12), 1207-1212.