Workplace Bullying Causes Anxiety Issues

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Workplace bullying can be a traumatic experience for those who are targeted. In fact, the distress, pain, and victimization that targets experience impacts almost every aspect of their lives leaving them feeling lonely, isolated, depressed, and anxious.

What’s more, the effects of workplace bullying not only linger long after the victim has moved on but also can reappear later in the form of various anxiety disorders.

Anxiety Disorders Victims of Workplace Bullying Experience

The top four anxiety disorders that targets of workplace bullying can experience include:

  • Generalized anxiety disorder
  • Panic attacks
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Social anxiety disorder

Generalized Anxiety Disorder

People with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) are often plagued with worries and fears that distract them from their day-to-day activities. They also report being troubled by a persistent feeling that something bad is going to happen. Outsiders often characterize people with GAD as chronic worriers who feel anxious about something most of the time.

Some physical symptoms of GAD include:

  • Fatigue
  • Insomnia
  • Restlessness
  • Stomachaches

It is not uncommon for targets of workplace bullying to still worry or even expect that something bad is going to happen. After all, something bad did happen almost every day that they were in the workplace. As a result, this repeated stress filters over into other areas of their lives and becomes a generalized anxiety disorder.

Panic Attacks

Sometimes called panic disorder or anxiety attacks, people with this condition must deal with unexpected and repeated panic attacks. During an attack, they experience feelings of terror that strike suddenly and repeatedly with no warning.

Other symptoms of panic disorder may include:

  • Chest pain
  • Choking sensation
  • Fear of experiencing another episode
  • Irregular heartbeats
  • Sweating

If left untreated, panic attacks can lead to agoraphobia, which is a fear of being in places where escape would be difficult. As a result, agoraphobics often avoid going out. They also avoid going to places like shopping malls or confined spaces like airplanes.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

PTSD occurs after a traumatic or life-threatening event. It also can show up after repeated abuse or bullying.

Symptoms of PTSD include:

  • Avoiding situations
  • Being hyper-vigilant
  • Flashbacks
  • Nightmares
  • Startling easily
  • Withdrawing from others

If the workplace bullying was particularly abusive and continued for an extended period of time, it is not surprising that some targets of bullying develop PTSD.

Social Anxiety Disorder

When someone has a debilitating fear of being seen negatively by others or humiliated by others, they may have a social anxiety disorder.

Symptoms of social anxiety disorder include:

  • Avoidance of social situations
  • Fear of being embarrassed or ridiculed
  • Overwhelmed with worry and self-consciousness about everyday social situations
  • Worry about being judged by others

It is possible that victims of workplace bullying can develop a social anxiety disorder, especially if they were repeatedly judged and publicly humiliated. They come to believe that the type of embarrassment they experienced at work will happen to them over and over again.

When to Seek Professional Help

There are some coping strategies that can be effective if a person’s worries, fears, or anxiety attacks are not too severe. For instance, some people find that writing down their worries helps. Meanwhile, others allow themselves a set amount of time to worry about something. When the time is up, they force themselves to think about other things. Other options include practicing relaxation techniques, exercise, meditation, and prayer.

But when the worries, fears or anxiety issues are significant enough that they are disrupting a person’s life in some way, it is important to seek professional help.

Sometimes, physical anxiety symptoms like irregular heartbeats, sweating or persistent anxiety will be related to a medical condition instead of an anxiety disorder. Some possible culprits could be thyroid issues, hypoglycemia or even mitral valve prolapse.

What’s more, certain medications or herbal remedies could cause symptoms as well. Be sure to consult a doctor for any lingering physical symptoms especially irregular heartbeats or breathing difficulties.

If the doctor rules out a medical condition, consulting with a therapist or counselor that has experience treating anxiety issues is the next step. The counselor can determine the type of anxiety disorder that is present. They also can help the person work through any workplace bullying that was experienced. Talking to someone about workplace bullying is helpful in finding closure and moving on. In fact, it is a crucial step toward healing from workplace bullying.

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8 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. National Institutes of Health. Panic disorder: when fear overwhelms.

  3. US National Library of Medicine. Panic disorder.

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  5. US National Library of Medicine. Post-traumatic stress disorder.

  6. National Institutes of Health. Social anxiety disorder: more than just shyness.

  7. Cleveland Clinic. How are anxiety disorders treated?.

  8. Cleveland Clinic. How are anxiety disorders diagnosed?.