Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety disorder that is characterized by an intense physical or emotional reaction to reminders, or “triggers”, of a traumatic event in one’s life. Because traumatic situations in the workplace can be the cause of this medical condition, Massachusetts workers’ compensation benefits will apply to those who suffer from the psychiatric injury of PTSD.
What is PTSD?
This mental health condition can manifest in many different ways, showing both psychological and physical symptoms. Some of the most common of these symptoms are:
- Severe bouts of depression,
- Elevated and prolonged “fight or flight” response,
- Flashbacks in which one feels as if they are re-experiencing the traumatic event,
- Irritability and mood swings,
- Nightmares that disrupt sleep and affect waking life,
- Gastrointestinal disorders, and
- Headaches and joint pain.
Prolonged stress takes a toll on the body and can have serious consequences for your overall health. Many times, the symptoms of trauma are obvious within days or weeks of the incident, and PTSD is diagnosed after someone has experienced their symptoms for more than a month.
Late-onset PTSD, cases in which the symptoms do not show up for months or years after, can be more difficult in workers’ compensation claims because you still must show a connection between your disturbances and the traumatic work experience. However, just because you have a late-onset form of PTSD does not mean that workers’ comp is unavailable to you.
How Can You Get PTSD From an Incident in the Workplace?
Traumatic experiences have the potential to take place in any profession, but there are a few occupations in particular in which workers are more likely to be traumatized on the job.
Police officers and firefighters, for example, see many traumatic experiences in the workplace as they are often the first ones called to the scene of a crime or disaster. Nurses, doctors, and EMTs may also develop PTSD from their time in the medical profession, both saving lives and seeing lives lost. This is especially true if the healthcare worker spends time in the ER for their position. Recently, our country has suffered the tragedy of multiple school shootings which can be an extremely traumatizing experience for teachers and other school staff.
PTSD can even occur alongside physical injuries if there was extreme pain or fear felt at the time of the injury. It’s also important to note that one of the most common causes of PTSD has to do with trauma from sexual abuse. If this occurred in the workplace, you can absolutely seek workers’ compensation benefits for the mental injury this causes.
Does Workers’ Comp Recognize Psychiatric Injury?
Most workers’ comp claims are based on physical injuries, and in some states you must have a physical manifestation of symptoms in addition to the psychological symptoms before you can claim workers’ comp benefits. This rule is extremely limiting because, while PTSD is a recognized medical condition that often does cause problems in the physical body, there are many situations where an employee has a psychiatric injury without any external indications of injury.
Thankfully, Massachusetts does not require that psychiatric injuries also have a physical component. You will likely still have to undergo an evaluation (sometimes more than one) with a qualified doctor as part of your workers’ comp claim. This evaluation will either diagnose you or confirm your diagnosis, and it will help demonstrate that your mental injuries are in fact related to something that happened at work.
The same benefits offered to someone with a physical work injury are also available to those who suffer from a psychiatric work injury such as PTSD. This includes benefits for your time away from work, medical expenses, and future treatment for any permanent problems you’re expected to experience with this condition.
Unfortunately, many workers do not realize that workers’ comp is available to them after a psychological injury. Jimmy knows that mental injuries can be challenging in workers’ comp claims, but they are definitely worth pursuing if your life and ability to work have been affected. Contact the compassionate team at Jim Glaser Law today by calling 781-399-0029 or filling out our online form to request a free case evaluation.