Prevent Secondary Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
Did you know that many social workers may face an increased risk for post-traumatic stress disorder? The risk to social workers was found to be almost double that of the general population. According to a study conducted by the University of Georgia, it was discovered that 15% of the social workers who participated in the study met the PTSD diagnostic criteria, contrasted with the 7.8% of the general population.
Repeatedly being exposed to the stories of clients facing trauma can be challenging. Very challenging. The University of Georgia's study also showed that 40 percent of social workers ruminate about clients facing trauma; 26 reported feeling emotionally numb; 22 percent claimed feelings of detachment from others; 27 percent noted increased irritability; 28 percent felt foreboding about the future; 28 percent described difficulties in concentration.
In a recent article entitled “Social Workers May Indirectly Experience Post-traumatic Stress,” Brian Bride, the article's author, considered the impact that clients affected by post-traumatic stress disorder could have on a social worker who was engaged as an understanding and empathetic listener, and how these repeated interactions could lead to secondary post-traumatic stress disorder. Ironically, while the incidence of secondary post-traumatic stress disorder is high, awareness about the problem is low. As Bride noted, “Social workers may hear about burnout and they may hear about self-care, but they’re not hearing about secondary post-traumatic stress disorder.”
Talk therapy with a caring and knowledgeable therapist can help you to minimize the risk of secondary post-traumatic stress disorder. It is critical for you to engage in self-care activities outside of work, including rest, relaxation, proper nutrition, practicing good sleep hygiene, engaging in activities that you enjoy, and receiving counselling if you need it. This will not only reduce the possibility of secondary PTSD, but it will also help you to avoid social worker burnout.