PTSD includes symptoms individuals might experience after a traumatic experience. Those who work with victims or survivors of traumatic experiences can also experience similar symptoms. This is referred to as Secondary or Vicarious Trauma. Vicarious trauma is defined as emotional residue of exposure from working with others after hearing their trauma stories, witnessing pain, fear, and terror that trauma survivors have endured. Below you will find a list of PTSD Symptoms and Vicarious Trauma details listed.
Some of the most common symptoms of PTSD include:
- Being easily startled
- Anger or irritability
- Difficulty sleeping or insomnia
- Loss of interest or loss of pleasure
- Recurring nightmare of the traumatic event
- Feeling emotionally cut off from others
- Being alert and prepared for flight or fight mode
- Difficulty concentrating
These symptoms may not surface for months or years after the actual event occurred. Sometimes these symptoms will be present while other times they are absent. However, if they continue over time and begin to disrupt your daily life, you may be experiencing PTSD.
- Avoiding places or things that remind you of what happened
- Turning to alcohol or drugs to cope with the trauma
- Thoughts of self-harm or harming others
- A need to keep busy with work or other hobbies to occupy your mind
Vicarious Trauma and Burnout are different. Burnout typically occurs over a long period of time. Burnout often improves with time off or a job change. Vicarious trauma occurs with ongoing tension and preoccupation of the stories/trauma experiences described by clients.
It is important to be aware of the signs and symptoms of vicarious trauma and the potential emotional effects of working with trauma survivors.
Signs and Symptoms of Vicarious or Secondary Trauma
- Having difficulty talking about feelings
- Easily irritated with others at home and in the workplace
- Easily startled
- Over-eating or under-eating
- Difficulty falling asleep and/or staying asleep
- Losing sleep over patient
- Dreaming about their clients
- Decreased pleasure in activities previously enjoyed
- Feeling trapped by work
- Diminished feelings of satisfaction and personal accomplishment
- Intrusive thoughts of clients
- Feelings of hopelessness associated with their work/clients
- Blaming others
- Worried that they are not doing enough for their clients
Behaviors that may indicate Vicarious/Secondary Trauma
- Frequent job changes
- Missing work
- Feeling fatigue
- Being self-critical
- Rejecting closeness to others
- Working too much but resenting it
- Staff conflict
- Blaming others
- Poor relationships
- Poor communication
- Difficulty finding positive connections with others.
- Avoidance of working with clients with trauma histories
- Lack of collaboration with co-workers
- Change in relationships with colleagues
- Overall sense of dissatisfaction
- Negative perception
- Loss of interest
- Low self image
- Worried about not doing enough
- Questioning personal identity, world view, and/or spirituality
Together all these can have a negative impact on job performance. Employees began to be unmotivated, make more errors, produce poorer quality work, avoid general job responsibilities, lose flexibility and individuals can become too involved in small details.
Get Support and Stop feeling like a Lone Wolf.
If you believe you may be experiencing vicarious trauma or compassion fatigue, now is the time to get the support you need to bring back your personal and work satisfaction. Counseling can help you turn things around, find a way to increase your job satisfaction, and restore your sense of well-being.