Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Specific symptoms usually present themselves shortly after exposure to the traumatic event and in most people, these symptoms spontaneously resolve with no lasting effects within a few days. In a minority of people however, the symptoms persist.


Repeatedly reliving the traumatic event in a number of ways, including intrusive unwanted memories or nightmares.


Symptoms of hypervigilance and anxiety, or a tendency to be irritable and angry at the slightest provocation.


The individual will avoid thoughts and feelings related to the traumatic experience or reminders of it – effectively acting as a coping mechanism. Symptoms include avoidance of activities, places or people which remind them of their trauma, resulting in a tendency to isolate themselves.


  • Disrupted sleep patterns or nightmares
  • Irritability, sometimes extending into heightened feelings of anger with tendencies to become verbally or physically aggressive
  • High levels of anxiety
  • Avoidance of activities, places or people, which remind them of the trauma
  • Loss of interest in hobbies and activities
  • Feelings of being detached from daily life
  • Feelings of guilt
  • Difficulty relating to authority figures.

Potential impact on daily life and employment

  • Isolation from friends and family
  • Often a sense of shame or stigma will prevent the individual from accessing help or support, exacerbating the sense of isolation
  • Can often lead to the onset of other issues, such as depression, or drug or alcohol dependency
  • Onset of phobias can lead to irrational or unpredictable behaviour, resulting in chaotic or disorganised lifestyle
  • Aggressive behaviours can result in confrontation or refusal of access to services.

Support in the workplace

  • Additional support may be required in the first few weeks as the individual familiarises themselves with the environment and their colleagues
  • Appointment of a workplace buddy or mentor to provide personal support
  • Identify any potential workplace activities that may trigger particular levels of stress or anxiety
  • Gain emergency contact details from the individual and understand when these should be used
  • Ask the individual about medication they are taking and possible side effects that may have a workplace implication – it may be that the individual works flexible hours to avoid early mornings when fatigue is at its worst
  • Look out for tell-tale signs of the individual becoming stressed, for example, agitation or fidgeting. Suggest they take a break and ask the individual if they are okay
  • Be mindful that the individual may need to leave a situation suddenly - often it is best to be seated near an entrance or exit to reduce anxiety.

Around 1 million Australians experience PTSD in anyone year, and 12% of Australians will experience PTSD in their lifetime.

Source; Beyond Blue

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