The Impact of Trauma At Work

Trauma isn't something we leave at the door when we walk into work. Whether you're a healthcare worker, first responder, teacher, or in any other high-stress profession, exposure to traumatic events can seep into your work life and affect your overall well-being. In this post, we'll discuss how trauma exposure can impact you at work and some strategies to address and manage its effects.

Understanding Trauma Exposure at Work

Trauma exposure at work can come in many forms. For some, it's dealing with critical incidents, like accidents or violence. For others, it might be the cumulative stress of supporting individuals through their own traumatic experiences. Over time, these experiences can take a toll on your mental and physical health, even if you don't realize it right away.

Signs and Symptoms of Work-Related Trauma

Recognizing the signs of work-related trauma is the first step in addressing it. Here are some common symptoms to be aware of:

  • Emotional Symptoms: Anxiety, irritability, mood swings, and a sense of helplessness or dread.
  • Cognitive Symptoms: Difficulty concentrating, memory problems, and intrusive thoughts or flashbacks.
  • Physical Symptoms: Fatigue, headaches, sleep disturbances, and unexplained aches and pains.
  • Behavioral Symptoms: Increased use of substances, withdrawal from social interactions, and changes in work performance.

If you're noticing these symptoms, it's important to take them seriously. Ignoring them can lead to more severe issues down the line.

The Impact on Work Performance

Trauma exposure doesn't just affect how you feel; it can also impact how you perform at work. You might find it harder to stay focused, make decisions, or manage your workload. This can lead to increased errors, conflicts with colleagues, and a general decline in job satisfaction. In high-stress environments, this can create a cycle where trauma leads to decreased performance, which in turn increases stress and trauma.

Strategies for Managing Trauma Exposure

Addressing trauma exposure at work involves both individual and organizational strategies. Here are some steps you can take:

  1. Self-Care: Prioritize self-care practices like exercise, healthy eating, and adequate sleep. Mindfulness and relaxation techniques can also help manage stress.
  2. Seek Support: Talk to a trusted colleague, supervisor, or mental health professional about what you're experiencing. Sometimes, just sharing your feelings can provide relief.
  3. Set Boundaries: Learn to set healthy boundaries to protect your mental health. This might include saying no to extra work or taking breaks when needed.
  4. Professional Help: Consider therapies like EMDR, which are specifically designed to help process and heal from trauma.

Organizational Support

Employers also have a role to play in supporting employees dealing with trauma. Here are some ways organizations can help:

  • Provide Training: Offer training on recognizing and managing trauma symptoms for all employees.
  • Create a Supportive Environment: Foster an open and supportive workplace culture where employees feel safe to discuss their experiences.
  • Offer Resources: Provide access to mental health resources, such as counseling services or Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs).
  • Encourage Breaks: Promote regular breaks and time off to help employees recharge and prevent burnout.


Trauma exposure at work is a serious issue that can affect both your personal well-being and your professional performance. By recognizing the signs and taking proactive steps to manage its impact, you can protect your mental health and continue to thrive in your career. In our final blog post, we'll explore how EMDR can be used beyond trauma to help with anxiety, depression, and more.