Effect Of A Toxic Work Environment For Mental Health

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Educational sites such as schools are places where bullies are common. Many cases of bullies occur every day. However, intimidation is not limited to children attending school but adulthood. The working environment is one of them. All forms of intimidation, from verbal commentary to negative physical contact, have the potential to make the work environment toxic.

The entire concept of exercising one’s supremacy over the other person by repeatedly indulging in offending and intimidating behaviors is quite common in workplaces. Despite the preponderance of such negative behaviors, the relationship between workplace bullying and mental health has remained one of the least discussed topics among employers, employees and medical practitioners.

An earlier study consisting of a 52-item health checklist for estimating the impact of negative workforce environment and workplace bullying on an individual’s physical and mental health had the following observations:

  • Anxiety was a common psychological problem, with 80 percent respondents reporting it.
  • 52 percent of those bullied suffered from panic attacks.
  • Agoraphobia was reported by 17 percent of respondents.
  • 49 percent reported clinical depression.
  • 30 percent of targets of bullying suffered from PTSD and 19 percent had an acute stress disorder.
  • 50 percent experienced intrusive thoughts and 14 percent witnessed dissociation.
  • Physical symptoms most commonly seen were migraine headaches (48 percent), irritable bowel disorder (37 percent), chronic fatigue syndrome (33 percent) and sexual dysfunction (27 percent).
  • While 29 percent had contemplated suicide, 16 percent had gone to the extent of actually planning the suicide.
  • A significant majority ranging up to 74 percent of those bullied felt betrayed by their co-workers and a 63 percent had lost faith in institutions.

Fortunately, of the 516 respondents, nearly 71 percent took the recourse to medical help and 63 percent actually sought the assistance of a mental health professional for their work-related woes.

Nefarious ways of bullying
It is generally seen that children with sociopathic personalities grow into bullies as adults. As most manage to develop the veneer of an understanding adult, it takes time before their true personalities are understood. Whether as a supervisor, a co-worker or a manager, bullies make use of the apparent weaknesses of their victims. Most of their attacks intend at dissembling the core identity of the victims, which can be rebuilt only through a sustained therapy. Some examples of bullying include.

  • Verbal assaults
  • Physical assaults
  • Harming one’s reputation
  • Spreading rumors
  • Unwelcome sexual advances
  • Disparaging remarks about one’s gender
  • Belittling one’s work
  • Criticizing even when it is not due
  • Displaying behaviors that are toxic
  • Refusing to acknowledge the good work done by the person
  • Constantly berating and shouting at someone in public
  • Threatening someone about job losses, especially in the current times when unemployment is at an all-time high

Rebuilding faith
The best way to deal with workplace bullying is to seek help at the earliest. One can deal with workplace bullying by either informing the manager or the human resources (HR) department, or seeking a lateral transfer to avoid the negativity.

Also, in case the damage seems more psychological in nature and inflicts a range of repercussions, such as sleeping problems, anxiety, panic attacks, etc., it is better to seek professional help. For example, in the case of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), one requires sustained counseling by a trauma specialist. Trauma specialists help in building desensitization skills, which are of considerable importance since the victims of workplace bullying who have had a serious traumatic experience have a greater chance of experiencing remission.

According to Judith Orloff, M.D. and author of “Emotional Freedom: Liberate Yourself from Negative Emotions and Transform Your Life,” the best means for tackling toxicity and negativity at the workplace is by strengthening relationship with co-workers who are not bullies. Dr. Orloff has also advocated meditation as a means for countering the aftereffects, such as shame, that arise when one is unable to counter the aggressor in a suitable way.

Sometimes, it is also helpful to keep a journal or a listing of all the discourses that one may have with a bully. Most bullies are good at manipulating situation and therefore keeping a journal is advisable, especially if one has to counter their lies and manipulations. She further elucidates, “Fear is the biggest energy thief there is. A master seducer and gigantic source of negative energy, fear shamelessly robs of us of everything good and powerful, preys on our vulnerabilities.”

Road to recovery
Certain traumatic incidents could push one to the verge of a breakdown requiring a sustained inpatient treatment. Whether it is PTSD or anxiety disorder, the crippling effects of these conditions can be alleviated by adequate support and compassion of loved ones. Besides the support of family and friends, a synthesis of neuroscience, intuitive medicine, counseling, treatment programs, etc. offers the opportunity to realize one’s emotional freedom and come to terms with life.

Mental illness should be treated at par with physical illness as both can cause drastic changes to life. If you or someone you know suffers from a mental disorder, contact your doctor immediately. The fast handling also makes the healing process faster. Get to know the symptoms.

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