I have this situation: I suffer from PTSD and have many triggers especially mainly bullies or retaliation.

In the place where I work there is a person who has been bullying me for awhile. This was perceived by me as a trigger, but in my situation I find it really difficult to talk with appropriate manners since it overwhelms me with rage. This is not counting the amount of stress that induce in me and the lack of sleep, etc. All things that make it more difficult for me to speak appropriately.

I've read posts here about how to handle similar situations but I did it too late, since I did what most of those post strongly recommend to avoid doing. One day with apparently no reasons, after a night of no sleep, because of another very stupid joke he said to me, I went to talk to him in the workplace face to face and I used foul statements because I was trembling for hours before I decided to do this.

I spoke with my supervisor about this since he has hints about my situation, but I have been told that I must learn how to talk with people. I cannot talk normally with people in these situations. I know that now the thing is escalating against me due to what I said.

I don't know how to handle this. I like my workplace and many of my colleagues, but I'm thinking about quitting before further escalations since I do not know how to act.

Can anyone give me some advice? Have you dealt with similar situations? Can you help me to understand the outcomes of this?

  • 8
    Do you have a formal diagnosis of PTSD and any of your triggers?
    – Aida Paul
    Commented Feb 7, 2020 at 8:26
  • 2
    I empathise. I also kinda lost my cool in the past with a colleague who I perceived was mocking me. It takes a while to learn how to be firm without being aggressive, especially if you've had bad experiences in the past. I hope you've taken a few days off to get some sleep in, and if you haven't, I strongly recommend you do.
    – rath
    Commented Feb 7, 2020 at 13:09
  • "very stupid joke he used to me" What was the joke? Maybe you could ask your job for some anger management training, or maybe you could seek that out yourself. Commented Feb 7, 2020 at 13:35
  • I don't speak from experience. If you regret acting that way with your colleague could you buy them a box of chocolates or something edible, and say sorry? If you feel the person constant mocks you then you could either speak to your colleague asking him to stop, or ask your manager to have a word.
    – Monstar
    Commented Feb 7, 2020 at 20:51
  • What have you done to seek treatment or help? Can you show you did those things? Commented Feb 8, 2020 at 13:24

3 Answers 3


Look at few things which are in your favour

  1. You have a known condition which I assume can be certified by a doctor
  2. Your condition is triggered only when someone bullies you (with the information we have so far). So it should be the bully who should change first since bullying is not a medical condition. It should be easy for them to just stop bullying you.

  3. Your 'wrong reaction' is limited to verbal abuse, not physically hurting someone. If you can at least maintain that (not that verbal abuse is okay but considering that is not in your hand as of now), and not cross the physical assault line, you can still save your job.

but I'm thinking about quitting before further escalations since I do not know how to act

No one has asked you to quit and there is no reason for you to do so. If there are further escalation, handle it at that time. Worst is you quit AFTER the escalation, not before.

May anyone give me some advice?

  1. You do whatever you can to improve your situation. Medication, Counselling, etc.

  2. Request your manager to understand this and also send a note to the team sensitising them about your situations and few suggestions on how they can avoid your triggers. Also note that, not bullying your co-worker should be a policy for everyone, PTSD or not! So it is your manager's responsibility to ensure that anyway.

  • 1
    Agreed, if there is any escalation, it will look much better for OP if they have already started to address the issue on their own (through counselling or similar) rather than them being forced into it by the employer as a last resort. Time to be pro-active.
    – delinear
    Commented Feb 7, 2020 at 12:27

I would tread carefully when using the term "bully".

You say you have PTSD and get triggered easily by the slightest thing. Are you sure this colleague is actually bullying you or is he just an extrovert jolly office clown that you find annoying because you don't like his jokes but others enjoy?

Depending on the situation of what this perceived "bullying" entails, you might be the bully in the eyes of HR after that outburst.


First of all, if you have the means to get therapy then do so. If I could magically wish for one law to be decreed and obeyed universally is that therapy should be mandatory for everyone. I said everyone. People have no idea how much the world would be better after a few months. It really helps in wonderful ways, so there is absolutely no shame in that. No matter what if any condition a person has. And while therapy/counseling is not a silver bullet to solve any of modern days hardships (such as anxiety, depression, or PTSD), it does make these conditions a lot more manageable.

Regarding your colleague, I imagine it is hard to you to differentiate between intentional bullying (from malicious people) and well-meaning jokes (from well-intentioned people).

One of the hallmarks of well-intentioned bullying is how the person reacts when you ask him/her to stop some specific behavior. If a tell you a joke that you find offensive and you complain to me, even in a discrete (but not cryptographic) manner, be sure I'm not telling you a similar joke, ever again. No need to ask twice.

Malicious people, however, the ones who might want to annoy you have a good chance of either repeating the same offense or influencing others to engage in the same provocation. If you want to test it, maybe pick some small non-PTSD inducing pet-peeve of your that you can manage well and ask the suspect offender about like it is a relatively big thing for you. See how often it starts happening then. If you report to a manager that bullying behavior is re-incident after a one-to-one (but cool-minded) request for ceasing, then you have good evidence that management needs to take action and that the person is deliberately crossing lines or testing limits.

All that being said, do consider that everyone has problems of their own. Hence my aforementioned law proposal. So colleagues of yours also engage in fights and arguments, some people may dislike each other and the vast majority of it has nothing to do with you. If you've snapped at a guy at the workplace, you are not the first nor the last. And things need to get a lot more serious than what you describe before one should consider quitting or firing someone. So, people need to have some degree of tolerance towards you, the same as you should have towards them.

"I spoke with my supervisor about this since he has hints about my situation"

Your supervisor should not have "hints" about your situation. He should have a very informed view of your PTSD. He does not need to know the specifics of the trauma, but he should know the exact medical terms (Post-traumatic stress disorder for serving in the army/due to family issues/related to a past violent accident). It is his job to inform himself on how to best manage a person with your condition, but it is also your job to make sure he is aware of what he is dealing with.

Keep in mind that mental conditions are medical conditions. They are serious and should be treated as such. But if you didn't have a mental condition, you would not be owned whatever special treatment or caution your condition may require.

To give a cruel example, if I'm scheduling an event and there is a person with celiac disease I would make sure that there will be gluten-free food for him/her. If however there is a person with a "made-up allergy" (meaning an excuse for an ill-informed diet), I'm simply not bothering myself about it. While this is not a recommendation on how anyone should handle this situation and I'm not being a role model here, this is how you should expect people to act: They respect what is real and known, they disregard bullshit.

If your boss has only "hints" of your problem, then he is not equipped to tell apart what is real and what (if anything) is bullshit.

Finally, if you snapped at your colleague and you believe he didn't deserve this, make sure he and your manager know that you think so and that you are sorry about it. Maybe write an e-mail, maybe ask your supervisor to apologize on your behalf. Clarify if needed that you acknowledging your behavior as unacceptable is not excusing his behavior, or any action of him that induces pain into you.

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