Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health ailment that can be caused by a person witnessing a terrifying event. Medical experts say 10% to 30% of people who see violent incidents or accidents can develop PTSD.
With the growth of mass shootings across the United States, more workers are filing workers’ compensation claims related to PTSD. In Virginia City, Virginia, nearly 450 city workers have filed for workers’ comp benefits after a gunman killed 12 people last March.
What are the symptoms?
PTSD can be difficult to diagnose as symptoms usually start within one month of the incident but sometimes may not appear until years later. Signs of the disorder are grouped into four categories:
- Intrusive memories: This includes distressing memories or nightmares, while some have flashbacks and relive the incident as if it was happening again and others have physical or emotional reactions to anything that reminds them of the ordeal.
- Avoidance: Victims will avoid thinking or talking about the incident as well as places, people or activities that remind them of the traumatic event.
- Negative changes in mood and thinking: Those with PTSD often have negative thoughts about others, the world and themselves, express hopelessness about the future and feel detached from family and friends. Some have memory problems and say they feel emotionally numb.
- Changes in emotional and physical reactions: Also known as arousal symptoms, sufferers are easily startled, always on guard for danger, have trouble sleeping or concentrating and many turn to self-destructive behavior.
Proving PTSD in workers’ comp cases can be challenging
PTSD is diagnosed using American Psychiatric Association guidelines for mental health disorders, and experts say being in the vicinity of a traumatic event does not meet those standards, adding that a person must experience symptoms for at least 30 days to be diagnosed with the disorder.
A Virginia City spokesperson says some claims have already been rejected out of the hundreds filed. However, workers have the right to work in a safe environment. An experienced workers’ compensation attorney here in North Carolina can help you with complex claims or appeals if you suffer from physical or emotional workplace injuries.