How to get a job, and keep it, if you're living with PTSD

Post-traumatic stress disorder can have a big impact on a person's daily life, including work.

If you are living with PTSD, support is available to help you have long lasting and meaningful work.

In this guide to PTSD and holding down a job, you will find information on the topics:

  • What is PTSD?
  • Can you work with PTSD?
  • What jobs can you do with PTSD?
  • How to find job opportunities
  • Workplace modifications
  • Where to get support if you need it

What is PTSD?

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition where fear, anxiety and stress from a traumatic event do not go away.

PTSD can happen when someone lives through or witnesses an event where their own or someone else's life or safety was threatened. For example, physical or sexual abuse, natural disasters, car accidents or military combat.

After a traumatic event, some people experience symptoms of PTSD and others don't. Some people recover on their own or with the support of their family.

Others may need medical intervention and long term support to help them manage their symptoms.
PTSD changes the way someone's body responds to stress. This can affect different people in different ways.

Common symptoms include:

  • Reliving the event - This may include flashbacks, nightmares and intrusive memories related to the traumatic event. A person with PTSD may also experience symptoms such as heart palpitations, sweating and panic attacks when they encounter triggering events, sights or smells.
  • Avoidance tendencies - A person with PTSD may avoid places, people or situations which connect to the traumatic event. They may experience feelings of detachment, depression and isolation.
  • Hyperarousal - PTSD may lead to heightened states of awareness, trouble concentrating, poor sleep, overreactions to every day events and a tendency to be easily scared.
  • Negative thoughts and feelings - A person with PTSD may experience feelings of guilt, anger and numbness or develop negative beliefs about themselves or others such as 'I'm a bad person'. They may feel isolated and cut off from their loved ones.

In addition to the main symptoms above, a person with PTSD may also experience physical symptoms including (but not limited to):

  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Headaches
  • Heart palpitations
  • Shortness of breath

Up to 80% of people with long-term PTSD develop other conditions such as anxiety disorders, depression or substance addiction.

Can you work with PTSD?

PTSD affects everyone differently. Your capacity to work will depend on the severity of your symptoms and how long they last. With the right support, many people find they can go on to have long lasting and meaningful employment.

People with PTSD may experience a number of challenges in the workplace, such as:

  • Lack of concentration
  • Memory issues
  • Emotional outbursts
  • Flashbacks
  • Difficulty connecting with co-workers

Returning to work can take time and it is important that you take it at your own pace.

If you are ready to get back to work, support is available to help you feel confident through the transition.

Many people with PTSD find that the right job and a supportive workplace provides benefits like stability, connection with others, financial independence and a sense of purpose.

What jobs can you do with PTSD?

Some people continue in the same job. With the support of their employer, workplace adaptations can help a person with PTSD to perform better and feel more confident in their role.

Other people may decide to look for a new role or change careers if their previous job is triggering or difficult to cope with.

In some cases, you may be able to transfer your skills and knowledge to a different role in the same company or industry.

If full time work is hard to manage, you may consider part time or casual work. Flexible roles may also help with managing symptoms and assist with recovery.

The journey to safe and supportive employment is highly individual.

When considering which types of jobs are a good fit for you, it may be helpful to think through the questions below:

  • What are your skills and qualifications?
  • What are you interested in or like to do?
  • What work environment do you want to work in?
  • What are your challenges or limitations?

Talking with an Employment Consultant may help you discover career pathways and job opportunities that you have not considered.

When Mitchell sought help from APM, his Employment Consultant helped him discover more about himself and what types of jobs he would thrive in. Mitchell said.

"(My Employment Consultant) really sat down with me and helped me figure out where I fit in, what I was actually good at."

Read more about Mitchell's journey to meaningful employment as a bellboy/valet parker/night auditor at a hotel in Perth.

Is PTSD considered a disability?

If you are living with PTSD, you may be eligible for government assistance, including employment support through Disability Employment Services.

Disability Employment Services is a government funded program which assists people living with injury, illness or disability to find and keep a job.

PTSD is one of the supported conditions at APM. When you register for Disability Employment Services with APM, we can assist with a range of services such as:

  • Finding suitable job opportunities
  • Applying for jobs and writing job applications
  • Preparing for interviews
  • Accessing mental health support
  • Accessing funding for workplace modifications
  • Ongoing workplace support

Register with APM today to see if you are eligible.

How to find job opportunities

There are many ways to search for work, including online jobs boards, networking and cold pitching to companies.

Applying for jobs can be overwhelming at times and it's important to look after yourself throughout the process. If you need support, don't be afraid to ask for help.

Here’s a few ways to start your search:

1. Searching online

A lot of job openings are posted online on employment search engines such as Seek, Indeed and JobSearch.

You can set up an email alert on these websites to get a notification every time an appropriate job listing is posted.

In addition to searching for job titles, try searching for keywords or skills such as 'coding', 'design' or 'flexible'.

2. Networking

Many job positions are filled through word of mouth. Talk to the people in your network and tell them you are looking for a job.

Having a positive recommendation from someone who knows you can go a long way when it comes to applying for a job.

3. Approaching companies

If you are interested in working for a particular company, you could approach them directly and ask if they have any positions open.

Do your research beforehand and be prepared to explain why you'd be a valuable addition to their company.

4. Disability Employment Services

If you are living with PTSD, you could be eligible for support in finding a job through Disability Employment Services.

As Australia's largest provider of Disability Employment Services, APM has a wide network of connections and employer relationships.

We can help you open the door to employment opportunities that are right for you.

We can also assist with career guidance, resume building and interview preparation.

PTSD and holding down a job

Each person will have specific needs when it comes to managing in the workplace.

If you are having a hard time keeping up with the demands of the workplace, your employer may be willing to make accommodations to help you do your job well.

They could be eligible for funding from the government to make these changes.

Workplace accommodations could include:

  • Working on a part time basis
  • Written as well as verbal instructions to help with memory
  • Flexible scheduling and time off for mental health appointments
  • Noise cancelling headphones to help reduce distractions
  • Removing emotional triggers where possible
  • Adjusting workstation to feel more secure, for example with back against the wall
  • Restructuring the job or reducing high stress tasks

If you are worried about keeping your job because of PTSD symptoms, support is available. Speak with APM today about our workplace support services.

We help people like you access personalised and practical solutions that are good for both you and your employer.

If you are living with PTSD and want to work, APM is here for you. Let's get started today.

When it comes to living with PTSD and holding down a job, everyone's experience is unique.

At APM, we offer tailored and personal employment support for thousands of job seekers every week and we'd love to help you too.

We believe everyone has the right to experience the benefits of having a job in a safe and supportive environment.

If you are ready to get to work, we are here to help – from brainstorming career pathways and finding suitable job opportunities to ongoing and tailored workplace support.

Get in touch today and let's get to work.