5 Signs Your Job-Related Stress Is Actually Workplace Trauma (& What To Do Next)

Workplace trauma impacts millions. A career coach explains how you can survive it.

Woman looking frustrated at work with a laptop Maples Images / shutterstock.com 

Raise your hand if you've ever suffered silently through a workplace trauma.

If you are unsure, it may have taken the form of bullying, power plays, verbal abuse, or toxic culture.

It's far more common than you might think and it can be completely debilitating. 

Post-traumatic stress disorder is on the rise among employees, according to the most recent Mental Health Index by Total Brain and the National Alliance of Healthcare Purchaser Coalitions. Risk of PTSD has increased 36% since February 2021, and 55% since the start of the pandemic.


Additionally, stress, anxiety, and depression continue to creep up, especially for female employees: women have reported an 18% increase in stress and a 14% increase in depressed mood. Please remember, you're not alone.

So what is workplace trauma exactly, and what effects does it have on people? 

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Workplace-induced emotional trauma (a.k.a. corporate PTSD)

Workplace trauma often stems from bullying, racism, sexism, poor boundaries, even assault. Working in these toxic work environments can lead to anxiety, depression and panic attacks, eating disorders and physical symptoms such as chronic IBS and migraines or worse. 


Experiencing this trauma can have a long-term impact not only on your career but also on your physical and emotional well-being.

RELATED: Why You Need To Stop Minimizing The Impact Of Trauma

Who can experience workplace trauma?

Anyone can experience this in the workplace given the right recipe. 

This toxic mix is often the result of power imbalances between management and lower-level employees. As a result, it can be difficult to report any misconduct to your supervisor. 

Lack of effective communication is often an issue and becomes even more problematic when race, gender and age dynamics come into play.

Many experience work burnout and overload as they to keep to themselves and to appease those wielding power and influence in a toxic culture.


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Ways Corporate PTSD & workplace anxiety may show up in your life:

  • Anxiety, depression or complex grief
  • Sleeplessness
  • Irritability
  • Lack of focus and concentration
  • Intrusive thoughts
  • Isolating or avoidant behaviors
  • Negative coping mechanisms

RELATED: How To Turn Your Trauma Into Something Meaningful

Ways Corporate PTSD & workplace anciety may unknowingly affect you: 

  • Feelings of hopelessness
  • Physical aches and pains
  • Loss of energy or interest in normal activities
  • Limited expectations about life
  • Confusion and loss of direction

RELATED: 7 Signs You Are In A Toxic Relationship With Your Job

Steps you can take to start to heal from this deep level of trauma and reclaim your peace of mind:

1. Take time for yourself.

Get plenty of rest, exercise and eat nutritious food that nurtures your well-being. Get out into nature and reconnect with yourself.


2. Identify your needs.

Start by examining your values and fundamental needs in your job. This will assist you in better understanding what boundaries got crossed, leaving you feeling the way you do

3. Feel what you need to feel.

Your feelings are yours, and yours alone. No one has a right to tell you what you should or shouldn’t be feeling

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4. Journal about how you’re feeling.

Trauma arises when we can’t effectively process our own emotions. Journaling is a great first step in helping you get those overwhelming emotions out of your head and heart.

5. Seek and accept support.

Find a coach or therapist who provides you with the safe and confidential space you need to process your thoughts and feelings, and make sense of what happened.


If left unchecked, your trauma can take a significant toll on your mental and physical well-being.

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Being bullied in the workplace created a massive case of imposter syndrome for me, which took years to recover from. It was the pivotal event however, that led me to my life's work, which is why I'm so passionate about helping others overcome it at a deeper subconscious level for long-lasting results.


This doesn't have to be your story. You can recover from workplace trauma more quickly than you realize. Life is too short to live with this trauma and fear stuck in your mind, heart and body.

It's time to rewrite your story for greater peace of mind and well-being. It is time to take your power back, increase your confidence, and reclaim your peace of mind.

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Michele Molitor, CPCC, CHt, is a certified coach and hypnotherapist, and co-author of a best-selling book. She assists high-achieving professionals in reducing their overwhelm and reclaiming their self-confidence, calm and clarity to create a thriving life and career.