Can Layoffs Cause PTSD?

Kellie Hanna, CPRW By Kellie Hanna, CPRW, Career Advice Expert Last Updated: May 25, 2023

Did you know that April is Stress Awareness Month? Yes, amidst the blooming flowers (and, with it, substantial allergies) April encourages us to reflect on stress and how best to manage it. Now, let’s take time to focus on a life event that mental health professionals rank as one of the most stressful experiences of modern life: job loss.

Male in a therapy session

Given the lasting damage it can cause to one’s well-being and sense of self, job loss is now considered to be on par with divorce, financial disaster, and even the death of a loved one. At this point, some mental health experts recognize the symptoms of PTSD (or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) among those who have been fired or laid off. If you believe you may suffer from this, take action promptly to ensure success in your current (or future) job.

If you’ve been dismissed and you’re having a hard time putting this experience behind you, know that you’re not alone. In fact, if this sounds familiar, you may benefit from a conversation with a professional therapist. Here are a few key things to keep in mind as you navigate the road to recovery and resolution.

Yes, you may be suffering from PTSD

PTSD is commonly associated with the aftermath of a devastating event, such as accident or an act of violence. The symptoms of PTSD don’t necessarily feel directly related to the event. In other words, these symptoms can arise or appear when the PTSD sufferer isn’t actively thinking about the trauma. For example, insomnia may take place months later, and an obvious link may not exist between the two events. Other seemingly unrelated symptoms may include trouble concentrating, hypervigilance, or an overestimation of risk. You may also feel symptoms that relate directly to your work experience. For example, you may panic when you’re asked to participate in an unexpected meeting. You can’t go the rest of your life feeling this way.

Your experiences matter

Too often, those who endure a painful job loss don’t believe that they might benefit from outside help. If you associate PTSD with truly terrifying events, and you can’t accept that your comparatively safe and mundane “tragedy” might warrant professional treatment, think again. Look at it this way: Your job provides a source of stability in your finances (paycheck), socializations (colleagues), and future (career growth); to pretend that losing these things (and more) in one fell swoop is easy is an insult to your basic needs. The sooner you reach out, the sooner you can bring your derailed career and lost confidence back on track.

Take action

You can —and you will — move on from this. But self-care, awareness, and action can accelerate the process. Some job loss sufferers never fully recover. For the rest of their working lives, they take fewer risks, underestimate their skills, live in constant anxiety, and consequently earn less over the long term. Don’t let this happen. Your job loss may not have been your fault, but even if you were fired for a mistake or a performance related issue, you owe it to yourself to put this in perspective, learn from it, and let it add to your reserves of strength, wisdom, and confidence. The first step? Admit that you suffer from PTSD.

Grow from this experience; don’t let it diminish you, or narrow the possibilities you imagine for your own life. If doing so requires the support of a professional counselor take action and reach out as soon as you can.

For more on how to keep your career in motion no matter what unexpected events occur along the way, explore the tips and guidelines available at MyPerfectResume.

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