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Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) After A Work Accident

PTSD doesn’t just affect soldiers. It can manifest after a work accident and qualify as a compensable injury.

What Is PTSD?

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition that is triggered by a traumatizing event or series of events. It can be triggered when an individual experiences a trauma directly or witnessed something traumatic.

Most people who experience trauma don’t develop PTSD. They may have temporary difficulties adjusting and coping, but usually, with time and self-care, they get better. If mild symptoms worsen with time — and last for several months (or years) — then the individual may have PTSD.

PTSD Has Had Other Names

PTSD is as old as time and has been called by many names. Ancient texts of Homer’s The Iliad and The Odyssey describe soldiers who are traumatized by war. It’s been referred to as an “irritable heart” (Crimean War), “soldier’s heart” (American Civil War). During WW-I and WW-II medics referred to PTSD as “combat stress, combat fatigue, battle fatigue, shell shock” and other names.

For almost two centuries, psychiatrists and psychologists like Charles Myers, Abram Kardiner, Sigmund Freud, and Sandor Ferenczi, identified, treated, and wrote many books and articles about PTSD, while calling it a variety of different names.

In 1980, after extensive deliberations, the American Psychiatric Association created a new official diagnosis — Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and added it to the third edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-III). This milestone unleashed significant research and study of PTSD and its treatment, and now PTSD has its own category in the 5th Edition of the DSM, called “Trauma and Stress-Related Disorders.” Previously it had been classified as one type of anxiety disorder.

What Are the Symptoms?

PTSD symptoms may begin in a few weeks of a traumatic experience — but sometimes symptoms don’t appear for many years. Symptoms are generally grouped into four types and cause significant problems in social or work situations, and in relationships. They can also interfere with a person’s ability to perform normal daily tasks.

  • Re-experiencing/intrusive memories

— Recurrent, unwanted memories of the traumatic event
— Reliving the traumatic event as if it were happening again (flashbacks)
— Disturbing dreams, nightmares about the traumatic event
— Restimulation: severe emotional distress or physical reaction to something that reminds the person of the traumatic event (triggers)

  • Avoidance

— Avoid thinking or talking about the event
— Avoiding places, activities, or people associated with the event

  • Negative changes in thinking and mood

— Negative thoughts about self or others
— Hopelessness about the future
— Memory problems — including blocking out memory of the event
— Feeling detached from relationships
— Feeling emotionally numb

  • Changes in physical or emotional reactions

— Easily startled or frightened
— Always on guard for danger, paranoia
— Self-destructive behavior (e.g. drugs/alcohol and driving too fast)
— Difficulty sleeping
— Difficulty concentrating
— Irritability, angry outbursts or aggressive behavior
— Overwhelming guilt or shame

The National Institute of Mental Health defines PTSD as “a disorder that develops in some people who have experienced a shocking, scary, or dangerous event.” To be diagnosed with PTSD, an adult must manifest all of the following for at least one month:

  • At least one re-experiencing symptom
  • At least one avoidance symptom
  • At least two arousal and reactivity symptoms
  • At least two cognition and mood symptoms

Who Is At Risk?

Any worker who is involved in a violent or horrific accident while on the job could develop PTSD or other behavioral health conditions. Workers who witness accidents are also susceptible to PTSD and other mental mental injuries.

First responders are particularly susceptible. According to the US Department of Veterans Affairs, about 55% of the general population will experience at least one traumatic event in their lives, and as a result, about 8% of the population will have PTSD in response to that traumatic event at some point in their lives. In contrast, the prevalence of PTSD among medical technicians (EMTs) is over 20%, and for firefighters even higher.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder has also been a helpful diagnostic and treatment lens through which to see childhood physical, mental, and sexual abuse.

Can PTSD Be Covered By Workers Compensation?

Many worker advocates and behavioral health professionals have worked diligently for decades to educate people about PTSD and other behavioral health issues and to reduce the stigma associated with mental health issues in the workplace. A diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder after work accidents or other traumatic events can qualify as a work injury in some states.

Workers’ compensation laws vary greatly across the country, with about half permitting a mental health disability claim without a physical injury being present. While several states, Michigan among them, have expanded workers’ compensation benefits to cover mental-only injuries like PTSD, others have limited this consideration to police officers and other first responders, and/or correctional officers, emergency dispatch operators, emergency medical technicians, and child protective service employees, for example.

Do You Need Help Making A PTSD Claim?

The attorneys at Cochran, Kroll & Associates, P.C. are ready to meet with you, learn more about your situation, and make recommendations. We thoroughly understand the workers’ compensation insurance system, and the steps involved in making a successful workers’ compensation claim.

After this initial no-cost consultation, if we decide to work together, our fees are limited by state law and are not paid until you get paid or a settlement is reached.

Contact us toll-free (24 hours) at (866)-868-3779 or use our convenient online contact form.

Mark is a freelance writer living near Concord, New Hampshire. He works with a range of businesses and professional associations in their strategic messaging and content development projects. He also provides content development services to nonprofits and government agencies, helping them distill complex topics and make information more accessible across multiple platforms. When he’s not writing, he enjoys working outside and finds mowing his fields on a warm sunny day to be a peak experience.

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