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How Does PTSD Limit Ability to Work?

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Most people know about post-traumatic stress disorder, but how does PTSD limit ability to work?

Symptoms of PTSD make it difficult for a person to focus on work, so productivity decreases.

Thankfully, treatments are available that help you cope with the symptoms and enable you to hold down a job.

Complete recovery is also possible through lifestyle changes, therapy, and medications.

Besides, there’s also Neuro-Linguistic Programming, an effective way to treat PTSD symptoms through changes in thought patterns and behavior.

What Is PTSD?

PTSD, or post-traumatic stress disorder, is a mental condition that develops in a person after a traumatic event.

Major causes of PTSD include mass shootings, terrorist attacks, accidents, loss of a loved one, sexual abuse, and other violent incidents.

Childhood traumatic experiences and natural disasters are also possible causes of PTSD, resulting in anxiety disorders and other mental health conditions.

PTSD can cause other mental disorders, such as irrational fears, substance abuse, compulsive disorders, and self-destructive behaviors.

How Does PTSD Limit Ability to Work?

PTSD impacts a person’s ability to work both directly and indirectly.

It can develop at the onset of the traumatic experience or may show as delayed symptoms months or years later.

Everyday activities such as creative and rational decision-making become impossible during a PTSD attack.

PTSD Symptoms and Their Impacts on Work

To understand the impacts of PTSD on a person’s work life, you need to look at each PTSD symptom and how it prevents a person from focusing.


Flashbacks are common symptoms of PTSD where a person experiences hallucinations and flashes of actual scenes from the traumatic event.

These flashbacks may trigger an anxiety or a panic attack, making a person unable to work.

In case the trauma resulted from a work-related injury, the flashbacks are even more prevalent as the sight of the accident triggers strong memories.

The individual with PTSD may not feel safe on the work site and feel stressed even when they are not in any danger.

Severe Anxiety

PTSD was once categorized as an anxiety disorder, with other symptoms developing later.

Severe anxiety may induce sweating, panic attacks, dehydration, loss of appetite, and sleep disorders.

Anxiety results in a loss of focus, making even the simplest tasks difficult. It induces negative thoughts that hinder concentration.

People with extreme anxiety may want to stay in a safe place, such as their house or office, creating difficulties in daily functioning.


Nightmares of the traumatic incident are also common among people who have PTSD.

Reliving tragic experiences in dreams is mostly common among military veterans, survivors of violence, and sexual abuse survivors.

These nightmares make it challenging to get quality sleep, resulting in a loss of productivity and impacting daily activities.

Moreover, sleep loss is a prime cause of lack of concentration during work hours.

As you can imagine, irregular sleep patterns create difficulties for people with PTSD to stay sharp in the office.

how does ptsd limit ability to work normally

Avoidance Symptoms

Avoidance is another symptom of PTSD in which people try to avoid other people, activities, places, and social situations that trigger memories of catastrophic events.

They also try to avoid thinking about the event or sharing it with others.

Instead of talking about the tragedy with others, they isolate themselves and avoid social interactions.

Most jobs require people to interact with co-workers and sometimes travel, which becomes difficult for people with mental health conditions such as PTSD.

Reactive Behavior

Rational decision-making and careful consideration before making a choice are essential to most jobs.

In the case of PTSD, the person becomes reactive and makes decisions based on primal instincts and emotional state.

That means they cannot perform to the best of their abilities, limiting their capacity to work on important projects.

The emotional symptoms also make it challenging to work in a team because the person overreacts to small comments and actions.

Hyperarousal Symptoms

Hyperarousal is a constant physical and emotional hyperactivity as if the person is still in danger.

These symptoms can last for months and even come back after years when a similar situation manifests in front of the PTSD survivor.

The result may be chronic anxiety, difficulty concentrating, irritability, aggressiveness, angry outbursts, and substance abuse.

If the job requires driving or operating a machine, the person’s hyperarousal symptoms can make it impossible to concentrate and work.

Excessive Negative Feelings

Working on complex projects requires emotional stability, especially when there’s stress and pressure to meet deadlines.

A person with PTSD suffers from excessive negative feelings that make them incapable of taking calculated risks and trusting their team.

Mistrust also makes them over-sensitive and protective, hindering them from performing even the basic functions.

They can also develop a fear of everything, including flying, heights, driving, and any other activity that is otherwise perfectly safe.

Intrusive Memories

One of the most common symptoms that most people with PTSD report is intrusive memories.

These memories may be of the traumatic event they experienced or their childhood where they were in danger.

The person may not even be in danger in those memories, but they feel threatened due to extra sensitivity and hypervigilance.

With such memories clouding their minds, concentration and focus become virtually impossible, limiting their ability to work.

How To Cope with PTSD

Treatment methods for PTSD include trauma-focused therapies, cognitive-behavioral therapy, alternative therapy, self-help, and medication.

Neuro-Linguistic Programming is also a great way to relieve PTSD symptoms.


The most used therapeutic method in PTSD is CBT, a talking therapy where you discuss your thought patterns and behaviors and learn to change them.

Alternative therapies such as yoga, acupuncture, meditation, and relaxation techniques are also common in PTSD treatment.


Your healthcare professional may prescribe you medicines for PTSD symptoms.

Since PTSD, anxiety, and depression symptoms are alike in many cases, the medication is also similar.

It works on your neurotransmitters to block stress-releasing hormones and relaxes you to induce positive thoughts and feelings.


There are some steps that PTSD survivors can take to relieve symptoms, including:

  • Joining a PTSD support group
  • Starting safe outdoor activities
  • Avoiding drugs and alcohol
  • Spending time with family and friends
  • Learning about relaxation techniques
  • Getting a massage and doing meditation
  • Getting accommodations in employment

Neuro-Linguistic Programming for PTSD

Neuro-Linguistic Programming, or NLP, helps you “reprogram” your brain to help treat many psychological problems, including fears and phobias.

It’s instrumental against stress and anxiety and helps you gain self-esteem. The result is an overall improvement in quality of life.

NLP is an effective method to treat PTSD. It relies on behavioral changes and focuses on results rather than lengthy processes.

Instead of labeling a person as ill, NLP therapy focuses on empowering them to take action and get out of their misery.

You can use these techniques to regain your power if PTSD limits your ability to work because of anxiety, depression, or any other mental condition.

Here are some of the best resources for people who want to get rid of PTSD and return to a productive and efficient work routine.

Principles of NLP: What It Is and How It Works

This book is a great resource to get started with NLP.

It explains the principles of NLP in detail and teaches you how to apply them to your daily life to achieve a better work-life balance.

You also learn to think proactively, enabling you to work on what you can control rather than worrying about things you cannot change.

The guide is especially useful for people with difficulty working due to PTSD.

It helps you change your behavior and thoughts to cope with stress and anxiety.

PTSD FREE – The NLP Thought Experiments

Here’s another excellent book for PTSD recovery. Written by a PTSD survivor, it contains practical tips and techniques you can put to good use.

Through its 20 thought experiments, John Wingert helps you acquire a new model of thinking.

These thought experiments help you shine a new light on your traumatic experiences and a fresh perspective to deal with your trauma.

It’s ideal for people with PTSD because of the pandemic and who find it difficult to return to work due to stress.

The Ultimate Introduction to NLP

Richard Bandler, the co-founder of NLP, is the author of The Ultimate Introduction to NLP, the best NLP book for beginners.

It narrates one man’s story of personal change to help readers connect with the book on a personal level.

It is a must-read for people struggling to cope with PTSD symptoms and want to return to a normal work routine.

PTSD and Ability to Work

Those who have been through a traumatic event can develop PTSD after some time, resulting in a loss of productivity.

It also compromises decision-making and hinders everyday activities that are easy for most people.

How does PTSD limit ability to work? This question is important not only for PTSD survivors but also for their coworkers and supervisors.

In the end, the most important thing is to provide support and a safe space for PTSD survivors so that they can address the symptoms as soon as possible.

6 thoughts on “How Does PTSD Limit Ability to Work?”

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