The idea of returning to work with PTSD may seem overwhelming at first. Serious effects of PTSD create many challenges in the work place including:
- Agitation or irritability
- Difficulty concentrating
- Fatigue due to PTSD sleep problems
- Memory lapses.
If you have PTSD, returning to work may not be an impossible dream. With planning and preparation, many people with PTSD are able to successfully resume their careers.
Why Return to Work?
Severe PTSD can be so debilitating it may be considered a disability. You may even be receiving PTSD disability compensation. So why try to return to work?
In addition to financial incentives, working helps people to feel more connected with society and the world around them. If you work in a meaningful capacity, even on a part-time basis, you may experience some of these important benefits:
- Increased economic security
- Increased satisfaction with life
- Improved self-esteem
- Reduced sense of isolation.
Even working in a volunteer capacity can bring benefits that help in your PTSD recovery. If you aren’t up to working a regular job, you may want to consider donating your time to organizations such as literacy programs, local youth programs or another cause that sparks your interest.
Work and PTSD Basics
If you’ve been through a traumatic experience, you’ll need time away from your regular routine to heal. Taking some time off may be necessary and healthy for you. When returning to your old job, you may want to consider starting gradually, perhaps a few hours a week to start, and slowly easing into your full responsibilities, if and when you are ready to handle them. If you are seeking a new job entirely, you may wish to start with a part-time position, especially if you have the cushion of PTSD disability payments.
You are never required to disclose a PTSD disability at a job interview, and once you are hired you need only disclose your disability if you need an accommodation to perform your job correctly. An understanding employer who you can trust may be helpful in your work adjustment.
Here are some ideas to help you enjoy a successful return to work:
- Be sure to schedule breaks to prevent fatigue and feeling overwhelmed.
- Checklists and voice recorders can aid memory and help you manage your responsibilities.
- Connect with a job coach or mentor who makes visits to your place of employment.
- Look for employment that offers a flexible work schedule or job sharing opportunities.
- Stay connected with your support system including family, friends and therapists.
- Try time management aids including stopwatches or timers.
- Use schedule reminders such as alarm clocks, e-mail notifications, pagers or phones.
For additional information and support regarding work and PTSD, you may wish to contact these organizations:
- Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve
- The Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury
- The Job Accommodation Network
- The National Center for PTSD
America’s Heroes at Work. (n.d.). Frequently asked questions about post-traumatic stress disorder and employment. Retrieved August 6, 2010, from: http://www.americasheroesatwork.gov/forEmployers/factsheets/FAQPTSD/.
Eichelberger, C. (n.d.). Simple job accommodations help employees with PTSD. Retrieved August 6, 2010, from: http://community.gettinghired.com/blogs/articles/archive/2010/06/08/simple-job-accommodations-can-help-employees-with-ptsd.aspx.
RealWarriors.net. (n.d.). Five steps veterans can take to support PTSD treatment. Retrieved August 6, 2010, from: http://www.realwarriors.net/veterans/treatment/ptsdtreatment.php.