PTSD in the Workplace: Do You Disclose?
Wednesday, September 12 2012 Michele Rosenthal
One of the most difficult things to do in balancing life and PTSD is to maintain, develop and/or build a career. There are times we are able to channel all of our anxious energy into being a super-duper employee (there are, you know, great benefits to hypervigiliance in how you perform your job!) – and times it’s just not possible to expect that level of performance from ourselves. During my own PTSD decades, I had eleven jobs in five industries over thirteen years because sometimes I could hold a job – and sometimes I really just couldn’t.
HOW PTSD AFFECTS YOUR CAREER
One of the biggest problems with the erratic nature of how PTSD symptoms impact a life is how it affects your earning ability, plus your professional reputation. You can imagine the Swiss cheese-type holes in my resume PTSD created! As I moved from job to job, I had to answer the questions: “Why so many jobs? What were you doing in all this time off?”
Since I wasn’t diagnosed with PTSD until my late 30s, I didn’t have a mental health label to express. My answers hinged on the many physical health issues I had faced. (It wouldn’t be until my PTSD recovery that I would realize those physical problems had been related to PTSD). Plus, as a writer, I often explained that I had taken time off to write.
In a tanking economy, at a time when employment is especially tenuous and competition is strong, how you present yourself in the job search becomes more crucial than ever. Which brings up the question:
Do you or don’t you tell prospective employers (or even current ones) that you struggle with PTSD?
Since I’m now 100% PTSD-free, this is no longer a question that applies to my own situation. However, if I had to make the choice today, I say: We do NOT have to reveal PTSD issues during an interview or at work unless they make us wholly unsuited for and unable to attend to the tasks of the job.
Legally, PTSD is your personal issue, just like other diagnosable problems including cancer, diabetes, depression, etc. It is my understanding that there are no mental (or physical diagnoses, for that matter) that you are required by law to reveal. PTSD is your own private matter to the extent that it doesn’t render you completely unable to perform. Which means, in interviews, you do not have to lead with, “I’d like this job but I have PTSD.”
That’s my position, what’s yours?
Do you or don't you reveal PTSD? This is a question we’ll be tackling today on my radio show, YOUR LIFE AFTER TRAUMA.
In the past, I’ve polled how other survivors respond to the issue of PTSD in the workplace.
Click here for tips about mental health disclosure.