Post-Traumatic Embitterment Disorder and workplace bullying

Can some targets of severe workplace bullying become so angry and embittered by their experiences that they are unable to move forward in their lives?

In 2003, Dr. Michael Linden, a Berlin psychiatrist, proposed recognition of a new condition, Post-Traumatic Embitterment Disorder (PTED), asserting that a traumatic event could trigger “embitterment and feelings of injustice” that impair one’s “performance in daily activities and roles.” These reactions can be so strong and enduring that they render someone helpless to address the situation.

PTED is not listed in the current version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), and this absence limits its application as a formal diagnosis. Linden believes the evidence merits its addition to the next version, now under deliberation.

While some disagree with creating a separate psychiatric diagnosis, others cite PTED as an important breakthrough in our understanding of trauma. For example, I recently cited Cheryl Dellasega’s invocation of PTED in her new book When Nurses Hurt Nurses (2011).

PTED and workplace bullying

I do not have sufficient expertise to pass judgment on the DSM debate, but the concept of PTED rings true based on my knowledge of the experiences of some bullying targets, especially those who have experienced job loss and career impacts. At times, the anger and embitterment run so deep that they disable individuals from taking actions in their self-interest.

This is not a negative judgment on someone’s character, and I wish to distinguish it from the maddening “it’s time to get over it” line that so many targets of abuse hear from well-meaning family, friends, and associates. Furthermore, I’m not talking here about the normal angry feelings that bullying targets often experience, some of which can be awfully hard to let go.

Indeed, words like “angry,” “bitter,” and “embittered” carry very negative connotations when used to describe people. They paint individuals as unpleasant and unsympathetic figures, while downplaying or ignoring the events that caused them to be this way.

By contrast, the concept of PTED helps us to understand that anger and bitterness may be natural responses to trauma and injustice, in some cases becoming disabling. Equally important, it may lead us to, as Linden suggests, “specific therapeutic interventions.”

PTED and workplace violence

On occasion, acts of severe workplace violence have been committed by those who purportedly were bullied at work. Could PTED explain why? As reported in the blog Living the Scientific Life (link here):

Dr. Linden suggested that loving, normal individuals who suddenly snap, killing either their family or coworkers and then themselves may actually be suffering from post-traumatic embitterment syndrome.

Worth our attention

Friends in the mental health field tell me that getting a new diagnosis into the DSM is a gargantuan task. Nevertheless, PTED helps to shed light on emotions and behaviors that many of us in the anti-bullying community have observed. We certainly should keep it on our radar screen, especially if it leads to counseling and coaching approaches that help targets improve the quality of their lives.

***

I had intended to cover PTED as a post about the law and mental health conference that I’m attending in Berlin, but unfortunately the presenter (NOT Dr. Linden, by the way) on this topic was a no-show! Nevertheless, due to its significance, I thought it was worth writing up anyway.

***

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78 responses

  1. Wonderful post, David! I have had some experience with this type of behavior – both from myself and others. It is debilitating to feel that there is nothing that one can do to “get over” the pain that was caused by such evil people. I have had two jobs since leaving the bullying environment that I suffered through and was unable to keep either job. I was always waiting for the other shoe to drop, expecting terrorism and FEELING TERRORIZED whenever innocent, constructive criticism was given to me. Since working for the 2010 US Census, I have basically worked from home as a freelance writer, mainly doing ghost writing due to the anonymity it entails. I am also applying for disability because my therapist and I do not envision a time when I will be able to make a sustained living otherwise. Bitter? Hell yes! Traumatized? Indeed! Your post rings true in my case David – thank you for putting a name to yet another aspect of the post-trauma experience. Peace to all – Drew

    • I fully understand your feelings where I worked right before 911 all around 911 these Bullies are
      terrorist’s gang bangers wolf in sheeps clothing
      Call it like it is Behavior so out of the rehlm of exceptable , Burning banks ,county buildings flooded out accounting dept. following people to other jobs job after job after job

    • Hi Drew, it would appear that there is a dreath in identifying workplace abuse more so by the organizations that are susposed to be put in place to protect alll of out right for the pursuit of happiness. I have just recntly left a job at a local youth center. The workplace abuse there is second to done. Moreover, it only targets the person in the position of Youth Administrator(YA). I was rehired from youth leader to Youth Administrator, I quickly learned I was the 5th youth administrator in as many years. It wasn’t long before I began to expereince the wraft of the Center bully. This individual, in fact, was once in an administrative position. She was a transplant from a sister center which had lost it’s funding and was merged with the center I was employed with. This individual lost the position she formerly worked for and intensely resented her demotion. Hence, she diligently, persistently, and with malice of went about sabotaging personnel and student files, took a disposition of insubordination and contrary behaviors. She promoted adversity between the Youth Administrator and other staff,
      as well as dramatized issues about the YA to the director. As I began to consult with the Director regarding the individuals behaviors, I quickly realized reaching out to the leadeship for conflict resolution and or intervention to resolve this staff behaviors, was to no avail and actually condoned. It became very obvious the Director set the workplace environment and maintained the hostile atmosphere by assuring there was separation and divison among the Staff. The director tool delight in fueling even the smallest of incidents to an explosive status, then stood back to see how it played out. Verbal threats, insults, and name calling were not excluded from the leadership behaviors. Written grievances to the Executive Board were just as fruitless. The Director had hand picked the Board members. Most of them were childhood friends and or those of whom she could pursade to do what she wanted. Board members whom did not fall into place and go along with the program, those who ask too many
      questions, or required some significant evidence of the rational for decision making, soon found themselves and their input ignored during meetings and may not be contacted about an up coming meeting to avoid and controversy over matters of business. As the center began to drastically financially degress to a critical state, the primary mission of the center, to provide youth progams and activities for at risk youth and youth overall, was identified by the YA and the YA shared the concerns and projection of the future of the center if the Board didn’t began to take a closer look at the directors performance and financial reports. As the board began to investigate and confirm my concerns and projections, their behaviors towards me began to deteriorate. I strongly suspect they were feeling rather insuffcient and embarrassed that they had been caught with their pants down. They soon began to understand that “absolute power begets, absolute abuse of power, absolutely”. Now I am the bad guy, because how do you defend against someone who has as much or more insight to how and why the center as gotten to be in this condition. You harrass, imtimidate, sabotage, and bully the only person that knows all leadership (director and board) have fallen short of their call of duty.

    • Yes it is a psychological injury, but it also makes people depressed and causes physical illness. PTSD can also have chemical dependency and psychotic breaks associated with it.

      • It is a neurological injury with symptoms that are similar to psychological ones…like anxiety and depression. Check out functional MRI studies….it is like a traumatic brain injury!

  2. Thank you for this post. It has been 13 months since my job where I was bullied. The bitterness at the bullying and at the dumb boss who let it continue still bother me. The bozo boss once said “Don’t let it bother you so much.” Enough said.

  3. David, Thank you, once again, for keeping your ears to the ground and hearing the approaching sound of this pattern of behavioral response to Trauma. This does, indeed, shed light on behaviors I have noticed in my direct work with bullied targets. Another common enough behavior is impaired judgement over seemingly routine or simple decisions. Such knowledge helps to inform me when formulating a working hypothesis of “what the hell is going on” in a workplace and with a person or persons.

  4. I am willing to bet some “burned-out” nurses fit into this profile. I think of the rippling effect on patients, colleagues and families. So costly.

    The cause and effect of bullying is a vicious negative cycle that is way to easy to ignore or blame victiims. Your work, David is helping to make it more visible. I appreciate posts from Greg and Drew too and Dr. Linden’s work.

    Beth

  5. Such an important post and good comments also. It’s easy to say, “Don’t let the Turkeys get you down,” but no matter the degree of one’s personal bullying experience, the damage is insidious and long lasting. I’m very thankful for counselors and educators — and of course those in the trenches, David.

    I do not give advice to anyone else because the variables are so —- well, variable —– but for myself — I do try to work on a little piece at a time to try to be able to move forward a little bit (in my personal growth). Right now I’m working on dwelling on the positive things in my day. I think, also, that my working days are over — for various reasons — not the least of which is the toll the bullying has taken on my self-esteem.

    Survival is good, though. And surviving by dwelling on positives is a hard thing to learn. It took me longer than I would want people to know for me to get to the point of remembering to find positive things to think about. But it has helped me. It isn’t denial or cooperation — it is re-directing my thoughts toward a more positive result.

  6. @Alice – I agree that PTSD is an injury and not an illness. I believe you and I have discussed this before. I have re-read my comments and David’s post and I’m not sure if I see what you are objecting to. The fact is, whether it is an illness or injury does not take away from the fact that it causes one to have extremely negative emotions and may lead to a disabling condition. I know for a fact that I am nowhere near able to return to a traditional work setting. My condition actually goes much further back than the workplace – in fact, my therapist and I agree that workplace bullying exacerbated an already existing condition caused by trauma that occurred during childhood. I had learned to cope with that situation and was doing fine until I was bullied in the workplace. That negative treatment put me back to square one and ruined many years of positive growth in my life. So maybe that explains why I’m pi$$ed off for what happened to me in the workplace! Peace to all – Drew

    • This PTSD/PTED article describes me but I don’t feel safe enough to elaborate. Please, just accept my “Thank you!”

  7. I appreciate all of these comments. I only wish that the topic didn’t resonate with so many people who have experienced bullying at work, showing once again the destructive force of this form of abuse.

    • I wrote to you years ago. I am an RN working at BMC for 25 + years with the extreme repercussions of horrible bullying, isolation, rejection, resulting in agonizing pain and ptsd. Someone years ago screamed at me in parking lot, during a period when I was austrocised for a period of about 2 years. Some years later, violently slapped by a coworker.Then a nasty voice message coming into my home that my 14 yr old daughter unfortunately overheard , and now I am experiencing what I would call emotional warfare by the same woman who struck me years ago. I so wish I could sue this hospital and these individuals for all the psychological damage that has been done and is so a part of who I am now, unfortunately. Managers come and go, but these characters don’t go anywhere. Is there anything I can do? I went to my manager about coworkers who are targeting me now again, she plans to call HR , but this could cause more harm. I just want to go to work in peace, do my job, and go home. This is an extremely hostile work environment, has been for years.. Suggestions?

      • I’m very sorry to hear about your continued difficulties. Although for a variety of reasons I do not provide personal coaching, the Need Help section of this blog may provide you with some resources. I wish you the best of luck in resolving your situation.

        David

    • I believe that some individuals who engage in the behaviour of bullying or abuse are also suffering from a form of embitterment syndrome, and as a result become deeply destructive to others in their social, private or workplace environments

      • I can only share what my experience has been as a target of a bullying supervisor for the past eight and a half years.

        It has been become abundantly clear to me that this person is incapable of feeling empthy and/or remorse for the injury she inflicts on others.

        Worse yet, she appears to derive a sadistic pleasure from inflicting pain on others and, then, watching them suffer.

        She is quite adept at what she does. Her patterns are long-standing, I am convinced, and some of her traits appeared to have surfaced in childhood.

        In my case, I am convinced that my bully is a sociopath with sadistic features.

  8. Other people get Raises,pats on the back Thank you how’s work Just Great! We got bullied,sabatouged,gossipped about lied about FRAUD agaist us credit ruined loss of tons of money benefits friends this went on from 1994—– I could not take anymore of this dileberate attack agaist any one trying to do thier job

    • It is possible that some do. But, what is important is you. Deep within there is anger…maybe it started with fear or intimidation, fear of losing something, fear of rejection…discover why.
      Next….untarget yourself….quote from Dr Namie’s article:
      …’they, the bullies are full of bravado and bluster and they will back down when confronted and, oddly enough, they will respect and respond positively to aggression. … – when they see acquiescence and co-operation, they exploit and close in…
      …they do respond to aggression and the GROUP can muster the courage that no single individual member (can)”… WE need to stop.”
      This means…to act as a group. But, if there isn’t , then change how u appear to the bully. Understand that statiscally, ur chances r slim, but not zero!
      And u can learn how to appear in the next work environment. It is important to appear the target.

  9. The Targets need JOB’s without harrasment and bullies
    we are not complaining we worked around people who where doing everything they could to GET IN THE WAY stop things from getting done and Managment paid too little attention for too long

  10. David THANK YOU so much for this article it is really brilliant and spot on. Can I add too one of the things we do or an analogy is this…..It is like we have become sort of allergic to people too as in those that cause a trigger reaction in any way ( rudeness, bully behaviors, any disrespect etc). We also feel the rules and values we thought where there to protect us are NOT and the world has now become an UNSAFE PLACE because of this. ( all from the Abuse and the lack of support and Justice). The norms and rules of society we thought where there are not and the rules and policies of our workplaces are not in reality there to protect us at all. Basically : we feel what we thought was always there is NOT and this turns our world upside down”and we fell we dont understand nor know how to or fit in any more” Can I add, a result we tend to when triggered Over-catastrophi se every day events thus causing more pain for ourselves and other around us! I have met many who are so damaged that they need real help to help themselves. I was such and had a lawyer literally take over my life for a while and a psychologist as I was soooo depressed. It is so important to have real HELP as we are so damaged that we are unable to fully function and ARE VULNERABLE . The organizations often use this time to get rid of the TARGET. This is one of the reasons it is so important to have a counselor, psychologist or legal person and you Doctor with you. One or all of these professionals. With proper treatment we can function again. It takes a time and each case is different depending on severity of injury. I for one can never return to my beloved profession. I am not alone sadly in my profession that cannot! A loss to the community as well as I was a high achiever and good at my job so where the many others I know. The typical target personality as in WBI!

    • Alice, I just want to say your description of Over-catastrophing and being utterly vulnerable is what I am trying to work on. Also the shame I feel that it has happened to me to the point of feeling I would be better off not on this earth.

      • I’m very sorry to read the pain in your words, and I hope you will seek out the help and support you need to work through the worst of this. You’ll find some resources in the Need Help page of this blog, and I’m sure you can identify additional local sources of assistance as well. Sending you good wishes. David

      • I just want to erase my memory of what has happened to me instead of hiding. I m so anxious and scared about getting back to work… Everyday is a decision to continue with or to not… Employment is though as I have been labeled a trouble maker and it was me who has had the problem so i can no longer work in the industry I was in.

      • It is now March 2015 and this blog has been running for several years and just gets more and more interesting. Well done DavidYamada for your informative and timely insight.

        I run The National Bullying Helpline and hear from callers every day who (without being a medical expert) I would say exactly fit into the PTED category. They are very ill but also angry and frustrated – and feel unable to function. A lady called recently having read our website article about PTED and seh said she immediately related to it. She has suffered for a decade – unable to forgive her former employer and unable to move on.

        On Sunday I was quoted in the Sunday People rearding the level of bullying in the NHS. Some of these have PTED too, in my view. Lasat week 80% of work related bullying calls were from the NHS.

        I am now working with a major University to carry out some further research into PTED and David Yamada, please feel welcome to become part of that process if it interests you. We need a test case, more research and recognition in the UK.

        Thank you Christine Pratt. Founder of http://www.nationalbullyinghelpline.co.uk
        Email: christine.pratt@nationalbullyinghelpline.co.uk

    • Christine, I appreciate the warm kudos and your work with the U.K. Helpline. I hope that more researchers will study PTED — this condition has certainly registered with many readers of this blog. Because I’m not a psychological researcher, I’ll be following those developments one step removed, but they are certainly relevant to the work I’m doing. Thank you!

  11. I have been thinking about PTED since your last post about it. I am sure I have it. I was not just workplace bullied however, I was arrested due to suicidal behavior, denied treatment, wrongfully arrested, tortured and denied treatment in the prison, had a prosecutor write lies about me and tell and newspaper lies, had a public defender who was a drunk and when I complained was abused, have moved trying to get counseling for PTSD in this 3rd world country I live in x3 (Alaska) to no avail(I have been misdiagnosed with almost every mental health problem in the DSMIV), lost my ability to work, had people believe egregious lies about me, had my property stolen, my cat was starved/tortured, ended up homeless three times, had the government ignore my complaints about problems with corrupt agencies (Sarah Palin), been mobbed in a village, was harassed by the police, got death threats, had state troopers destroy evidence/lie/threaten me, had to be around dominionist far right crazy people, and I’m trapped in Alaska and had my health harmed. Oh, there is a lot more. I am doing better however and feel I have the strength to start the legal fight again soon. There is absolutely no way any mental health “professional” in AK would know anything about this.

  12. @ DREW I am disputing anything at all. I just was making a point as so many people are treated like they are mad or have a mental illness when they do not! May I reiterate too. Everyone with PTSD ( timeline thing to be diagnosed with this too) all begin with Depression. All of us have an underlying “reactive depression” with anxiety. This is the beginning or onset. I go to a brilliant Psychologist who is the best here and she has a Masters in her field and a specialist is Workplace abuse and PTSD. I have been educated by her. I also saw her off sider who is a neuro- scientist plus psychologist who educated me also. So when I make a opinion it is usually what they have taught me. Drew you and I have have chatted about this. I guess my point is that many people think we are mad and in fact PTSD can mimic Bi-Polar with it symptoms when it fact it is NOT Bi- polar in most cases. I cannot diagnose nor do I want too or would and neither can we…however the initial diagnosis is very very important. Especially when one has been fine before the TRAUMA or event that caused this to happen. With proper diagnosis one gets proper treatment……makes sense I hope. Drew I was just informing people that if you have or are diagnosed with PTSD it actually is a normal human reaction to a trauma or event and allow yourselves to know this.

  13. Pingback: Post-Traumatic Embitterment Disorder and workplace bullying (via Minding the Workplace) « Bullying, Mobbing and Harassment, Real Solutions!

  14. Thanks for your article and work on this topic. It seems to happen to so many, yet there is as yet relatively little written about it. I too had it happen to me twice and survived. I even stayed on at the institution where it happened and in spite of the people who perpetrated it. Much later I wrote a book about my experiences with academic mobbing in the expectation that others would find my experiences interesting and useful. For anyone interested it is available at
    http://www.amazon.com/Chaos-Academic-Mobbing-Renison-ebook/dp/B004MDLKNW
    John Towler

  15. This article and commentary has resonated with me so much. The idea that our anger and bitterness can lead to dysfunction is totally true!!! In the wake of the emotional abuse at work that I endured, I have engaged in self-sabotaging activities, mostly of angry emotional displays, that haven’t really helped my professional status, reputation, and credibility Not that the bullies of the world don’t suck to the nth degree, but we have to fight against the anger and bitterness, or it will indeed consume us and disable us. I hate the profoundly insulting, irritating and insensitive “just-get-over-it” commentary. Would you people who say this just please shut up? I don’t care if you mean well or not, just shut it. But it is true that no one can turn it around for me except for myself. I have pursued (and still do) counseling, and I am trying to understand what about me has been broken, so I can heal and not be debilitated by the hurt I have sustained. I am talking about myself, no one else, and like Mary, I don’t want to judge others, it has just taken a long time to figure out fundamental truths and to look for the positive, as this is the only way to move on. I just mostly want to find my way out of the abyss, and the affirmation and acknowledgment that this is indeed a struggle has actually helped me to begin to find a way to move on.

  16. David you are remarkable, I am unfortunatley going through pted right now and i could not have explained any better what it feels like. It is crippling and every day as i wonder if i will ever work again i experience all of the emotons you describe. when we have been wronged and abused, tortured, bullied, brow beaten, tormented, stalked, screamed at, yelled at, demoralized, had our self esteem ripped away, been micromanaged down to how you sign your name, belitteled and disgraced and embarrased in front of coworkers etc, it is very painful and difficult and wrong, and it does create an enormous amount of anger and bitterness. I could never understand why people go into their workplace and shoot their boss, now i do. I dont condone it and i would admit myself to a hospital before i ever let myself get that weak, but it does open ones eyes to the fact that not all of us can take the same amount of abuse and keep going, some people snap and the consequences are very unfortunate for everyone. My point is that the amount of pain and grief and physical and emotional damage that bullying brings on is enormous and can shatter one entire life, overlapping into many areas. From Kindergarten to our first job we are programmed to understand and let work become a major partof our identity, and when a bully destroys that identity and you feel as though you may never get it back, that could definately push some people to an edge of no return, and with that i would like to say to all targets, when you feel, or if you feel that vulnerable, before you do something that you cannot ever change or live with , get help and save yourself, the bully will get theirs in time, especially as we see more progress with the legislation ect. Also get involved and put the word out about the workplace bully institute and healthyworkplacebill.org online, there is a lot of help and education already available to help one through, and by all means get professinal help to heal yourself. Great article. I am going out to the mall right now and hand out business cards i had made up that have the websites i just mentioned on them, to do my part.

    • Mel, you can thank Dr. Linden for doing the hard work of thinking through this condition. This concept has resonated with so many people who have experienced bullying and other forms of mistreatment at work. So there’s definitely something to it, even if it’s not an officially recognized psychological injury.

    • How are you? What you described is exactly how I feel and what I went through. It has been 6 1/2 years and Im suffering so much. I find myself crying on the train. Im trying to pick up the pieces. I was 35 year old and now Ill 42 and Im scared of another 6 1/2 years like this.

      • I understand. The anger and anxiety hasn’t left and it started some years ago and I am approaching late 30s, crying on trains, shopping when it slips in my mind again. I don’t want to carry this trauma with me anymore.

  17. Thanks David
    I wanted t run something else by you and see if you have heard of it. One thing that i am struggling with most of the time in relation to work and the concept of ever returning is this psychological thing that is hard to explain but i will try. i started working when i ws 14 full time summers and i am 53. i have worked full time year round since 1979 about 32 years. As a young kid when we start out working we do not often know alot about the working world or maybe the specific job or career we are doing. We finsih school , maybe get married etc and well for me work had become second nature and everything i did work wise whether for my full time job or my side work i did for years remodeling etc was like i said second nature and i had become comfortable, felt experienced and had a strong sense of how my skills fit into the needs of every day society. i cannot come in touch with that anymore and i have to wonder if it is the constant brow beating and the way i was constantly humiliated that made me protect myself and put my focus on that rather than work and moving forward with my career, and it is many times that i feel broken and like i have lost touch with that part of my identity. i would be curious what you think of that and if you have heard similar concepts, or what anyone else that has been bullied thinks.

    • Mel, though I’m not a psychologist, what you’re describing — loss of self-esteem and self-identity — are common consequences that I’ve seen many times with targets of severe bullying at work.

      I won’t ask you in this public forum if you’ve sought out career coaching, therapy, or some other form of mental health assistance, but it may be helpful if you have not — while keeping in mind that too few mental health providers understand workplace bullying.

      Best of luck in dealing with all the bad stuff.

      • I a looking for
        therapeutic or any other type of advice for me to improve after been exposed to constructive dismissal for a period of 10months, as I feel mentally drained, physically exhausted, lost selfesteem, cant concentrate, cant sleep, or sleep too much, lost interest in life, cant eat, Tku

      • I’m so sorry to hear what you’ve been going through.

        Please consider seeking counseling with a mental health professional who is knowledgeable about depression and trauma.

        Wishing you the best of luck in dealing with all this. Take care.

  18. Thanks Dave
    I am in professsional couseling and he is excellent and is aprofessor of psychology although may not be an expert in workplace bullying he is creative enough to understand and sort out what is going on. It is just a long process. I do agree with you it is a lot of loss of self esteem and identity. Thanks again for your excellent input.

  19. It is helpful just knowing that I am not the only one experiencing the feelings that make up PTED. I feel if I could come face to face with the bullies that caused the damage that it may help. Two to three years after the final incident I am still suffering from major depression and major anxiety disorder. I have been undergoing electro-convulsive therapy treatments, taking multiple psychiatric meds, and going to psychotherapy at least every two weeks and still suffer. My treatment team is made up of the best of the best but the injuries I experienced from workplace bullying have not healed.

      • I am still suffering from depression and receiving the same treatment. I have learned to take full advantage of my occasional “good” day. I wrote a letter to those that bullied me and let them know how it affected me. My therapist read it before I mailed it. Just knowing that they now know what they did to me helped lessen the anger I feel toward them. I think I could handle meeting them face to face now.

  20. I was in a horrible situation a year ago where I was verbally abused and targeted by my boss. I went to HR and asked for a transfer, but they belittled me and refused to help me. The situation became progressively worse as he got two other supervisors to intimidate me by constantly coming in to observe me and criticize me, and document trivial and unfair things to use as “evidence” against me. Then the worst thing was when the people on my “team” of coworkers started bullying me as well. I started to have health problems due to the chronic stress and fear I felt. I still think about it everyday and have such strong feelings of anger and feeling like there’s something wrong with me.
    Reading these posts is validating. It’s good to know I’m not alone. Many people I tried to talk to about it thought that I was weak and too sensitive. I want it to stop having this daily negative influence on me, but I’m finding it difficult to just stop thinking about it or “move on”. I feel like I don’t have what it takes to make it in the world. I feel like there’s something about me that makes people target me. I have seen the ugly side of humans, and I am still amazed at how low and immoral people can be. In my mind I still see them giving me the evil eye and I can still hear their laughter. I feel intense feelings of humiliation. I am scared of people now. I have a better understanding now of how the Holocaust could have happened.
    People seems to acknowledge that childhood bullying is a problem, but minimize adult bullying.

    • Ari, I’m very sorry to read that you’re struggling with all that you endured. You certainly are not alone in dealing with these feelings.

      You may find helpful some of the resources on the Need Help? page of this blog.

      Best of luck to you,
      David

  21. Interesting ideas. Generally, I counsel patients to focus on symptoms and finding useful interventions & supports. Stephen Gould wrote in Mismeasure of Man of reification : the common error in which we create a new word and assume we have changed reality. Diagnosis only serves a useful purpose to the extent that it guides research and practice. It also serves only to the extent we can put reasonable confidence in it: tomes by committee cannot generate knowledge, as shown by past practices know by all experts to work until science proved otherwise: blood-letting, the sun orbiting the earth, humors, alchemy, etc. Lao Tze wisely counseled us to humility: keep the limits of your knowledge in mind, or you will fool yourself into well-rationalized ignorance, anti-knowledge. Instead of convincing ourselves that a liable “explains” anything, we need to focus on sound knowledge and experiment and learn to find more useful approaches to our suffering than we currently have. To this day, we still haven’t much of a clue why a magnet pulls a nail, or why gravity works – our descriptions and predictions are still quite useful, even though “magnetic force” adds no knowledge in of itself. Similarly, we see real and generalizable effects in response to bullying – I’d rather study that and spread what I learn and learn what to do about it, then argue over mere labels. There are always plenty of others eager to fill that need for me anyway.

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  23. When this happens in a government workplace and involves federal management, tenured employees versus younger claiming they are simply implementing their “newer and better, fresher” project management techniques…management will side with management and not support the tenured, experienced employee. Sad, but the elder worker cannot just quit and give up almost 30 years of employment. The elder worker is Trapped!!!

  24. Hi David,

    Thank you for your reply post.

    Q. Do you think that it is fair to say those targeted have embitterment syndrome?

    Reading more and reviewing my person observations of those who engage in workplace abuse and bullying I have noticed that they are often the ones very embittered and angry. As a result they displace or transfer these emotions onto another individual that they dislike, disagree with, view as a threat, fear, or other harsh emotion of hatred.

    In relation to targets, it is more a constant reliving or “looping” of the incident that occurs in your mind or via conversations – I suppose to an obsessive point in some peoples view who are observing. In addition, there is a raging frustration and anger towards the individual, as well as people who witnessed the behaviour (bystanders) but did not speak up and at times would also chime in with their own mean statements or behaviours during an incident.

    For targets, (myself and those I speak to) there is a disbelief and major emotion of being “stunned” that those in positions of authority and/ or power did not engage in the process of protecting the employee they are paying from being harmed. Further to this, that some even encourage the abusive behaviour by either not intervening or denying that it is occurring.

    From my observations targets are more disheartened and confused; where as many of the aggressors are embittered. Interestingly, some aggressors do not even remember the mean things that they say to people. This I find very interesting and perhaps your knowledge might shed light on this phenomenon that I have come across in my observation work over the past several years.

    • I’m not a social science researcher, so I don’t know the extent to which this condition typifies bullying targets.

      Anecdotally, however, few posts on this blog have generated as much interest and agreement from those who have experienced workplace bullying as this one. I was surprised by the strong sense of agreement among those who are dealing or have dealt with bullying situations.

      • This might be from people struggling to identify with something to create balance and understanding of the events and incidents they have been exposed to.

        I agree that at some points there is embitterness that might occur.

        What I notice is key difference between the two is the longitude and depth of the resentfulness.

        What I have observed is some individuals who engage in the purposeful behavior of harming others, is there is a extremely long and continuous period of focusing on negatives, being increasingly resentful towards others and then placing blame for their unfortunate situation or what they view as unfair events onto a certain person or others (often this is directed to someone they dislike or are jealous of) after which they engage in socially destructive types of behaviors.

        This is not the same as an abrasive individual, with poor interpersonal skills, who is reactionary during an upset or angry episode.

  25. When I saw a TV show about stalking, it reminded me of the obsessiveness of the bully. Once he chose me as the target, he was relentless.

    “Sadistic” is a good word for these people. He had no concern for my feelings. It was his way or the highway.

  26. Honestly, I don’t know if I would consider myself embittered. I mean, I resent being treated like crap, but isn’t that a normal reaction? I’m normally a very kind, compassionate person, and there’s no way I’d treat anyone the way I have been treated. Even after the incident, I refuse to turn around and do what has been done to me to someone else. I have met some seriously bitter people in my life, and they are hard to be around. So even though being abused has made me naturally angry about the situation, I think I prefer the term ptsd. Its the effect of long-term stress that has effected me, and probably all of the suppressed emotions as well, but fear was prevalent a lot more strongly, in my case, than anger and bitterness.

    As Drew mentioned, I think one reason workplace bullying is so hard to heal from is because it may be the sign of a deeper issue. I personally KNOW my recent trauma and being emotionally and psychologically abused as a child are linked, just as it is common among children who grow up in abusive households to grow up and UNCONSCIOUSLY, yet repeatedly attract abusive partners. I think this is a very critical issue that needs to be looked into for true healing to occur. Its well-known in psychology and human development that we unconsciously create all of our life patterns by the age of 7, if not before. And I want to repeat, these are unconscious patterns. No one would ever CHOOSE them. I believe Freud called it repetition compulsion, the unconscious drive to resolve the issue. Incidentally, at the height of my abusive work situation, I did actually revert to childhood, I literally felt like a helpless, powerless child. I’m seeing this situation as a call to heal my past.

    I also agree with Tamara- I think the bitterness I have is because I am obviously angry at the injustice and angry that my confidence and competence was stripped away- isn’t that normal? I’m grieving for what I have lost! However, the subtle psychological manipulation and the threats, all of the stuff she projected at me, it had to go somewhere. And it did. I blamed myself for a long time, asking myself and my colleague friend, what can I do differently, how do I fix it? Like an adult, I tried to take responsibility, but at what cost? The thing is, it is crushing to the spirit when you realize how abusive some people are just because, and their own insecurity is the downfall of some of the most creative, talented, sensitive employees. It is only recently, after overcoming (or coming out of) the shock I was in for a couple of years, that I am seeing things accurately, and I’m starting to absorb the fact that what happened was NOT my fault. So of course it makes me angry, because I blamed myself! Because I could not possibly understand why a human being would DO that to another human being. Similarly, scapegoats get a TON of “generational fury” projected at them. And if there’s one thing I have learned from my weakened nervous system and hypersensitivity, it is that emotions ARE contagious, so if someone INTENTIONALLY sends you some emotions, you will catch them.

    I’d like to add also that we need to let go of all these emotions, no matter where they originally came from. I am the poster child for the psychosomatic effects of suppressed emotions. Here’s an example: In a recent meeting in which I once again felt I had no voice (I’m at the same job, but have a new supervisor who is great, but doesn’t really speak up for his staff), I silently repeated,’I won’t get mad, I won’t get mad’ and literally within seconds, I got a migraine.

    We do need to forgive ourselves, but not by denying how we feel. Its time we owned and embraced our feelings, ALL of them. We need to validate ourselves. And yes, anger IS a natural part of the grieving process.

    I’ve tried everything folks. So even as I felt like I was starting to heal emotionally, the physical symptoms showed up and crushed me. It’s been 5 years since I got a new boss, but being in the same job and being unable to move on has been very anxiety-provoking. I just recently started homeopathic medicine, which actually heals instead of just covering up symptoms. It heals the WHOLE person. Body, mind and spirit. I just started staphysagria, which is helpful for, among other things, the emotional symptoms of suppressed anger, which INCLUDES grief. I seriously would suggest looking into homeopathic medicine. I don’t know about you, but our medical system has failed me and many people I know, so I’m open to alternatives now.

    I’d just like to make ONE decision in my life right now. About a new cell phone maybe. Anything.
    I wish everyone here good luck.

  27. I need to clarify that I was not implying (above) that you should run out and get some of the homeopathic medicine I am currently on, nor do I suggest self-diagnosis of homeopathy. I tried, and trust me, its not easy. Luckily, I recently found a homeopath, from whom I got the staphysagria. It is important to have a consultation with a qualified professional. I would, however, suggest being open to different possibilities. If what they say is true and very few of us recover, we need all the help we can get.

  28. Personally, I can envision a place for PTED in the DSM. With the increased psychotic breaks that people are experiencing whereby there appears to be an increase in revenge killings as a result of what could be, in part, due to prolonged and sustained bitterness and/or PTSD symptoms due to a lifelong pattern of being scapegoated, etc., this diagnosis could possibly be viewed as a ‘red flag’ indicator for clinicians who would tend to view one of their clients as experiencing this level of embitterment.

    In other words, perhaps a diagnosis that describes the characteristics associated with prolonged suffering that may be considered somewhere on the spectrum between PTSD and a psychotic episode, might enable the treatment community and its patients to potentially identify someone who is a risk of a break, assuming that person shows up on someone’s radar.

    I, also, think that the recognition of the diagnosis helps to put the bullying phenomenon on the table, as the bullying can, then, be considered valid research material in order to understand how the behavior impacts upon a person over the life cycle.

    I do think that the old saying that some people view ‘meekness as a weakness’, also, plays a part in who is chosen as a target. For instance, if someone is not willing to play by the toxic rules (group think), which would mean participating in the targeting of someone, then that person, by virtual of one’s lack of compliance, is acutely at risk of becoming the prolonged target of abuse.

  29. I agree with your insights. Very well put.

    Here is a question – please understand I do not at this time view it in this manner myself.

    I am on a LinkedIN thread

    http://www.linkedin.com/groupItem?view=&gid=2525027&item=235107435&type=member&commentID=133995878&trk=hb_ntf_COMMENTED_ON_GROUP_DISCUSSION_YOU_COMMENTED_ON#commentID_133995878

    where they are discussing “Bullying is one of the biggest diseases to ravage our youth…and our workplaces…”

    Perhaps I am the one to mis-understand – if you would be so kind as to read in and let me know your thoughts on this concept.

    They are suggesting bullying is a social disease….

    my position is – if we look at the behaviour as a disease (like we currently do for drug abuse) then are we not setting up the foundation to excuse people who engage in the behaviour? If they have a disease then they would not be at fault for their actions….

    What are peoples thoughts on this position?

    • Thank you, BUSINESSGENIE, for the invitation to the group. I did request to join and I am in a pending approval status.

      I can see where it may be viewed as a social disease. I, also, think that viewing the phenomena in that light is fine. However, we need to be very careful that there is full support for the targets of this problem, in spite of the more hidden fear and pain that the bullies may be experiencing.

      The most vulnerable need always be considered in whatever issues we are attempting to deal with, in my opinion. And, someone who is the recipient of covert/overt attacks on one’s personhood need to be the first person’s that we consider and support.

      I hope to be approved for the group. If I am I can read the materials and respond, if possible.

  30. We are getting a lot of inquiries at The National Bullying Helpline about this subject. I think people are starting to realise what it is – certainly questions are being asked. I spoke on LBC radio on the subject too. PTSD is relatively well known now but PTED is something that has been unexplained for too long. After I spoke about PTED on the radio, two listeners immediately call our helpline and said “Now I understand why I am so angry and unable to achieve ‘closure'”. I think much more needs to be done about this condition.

    • Christine, thanks for sharing your experiences of staffing the hotline. Yes, it’s a huge counseling challenge, made even more difficult by the fact that it’s not a clinically recognized condition.

  31. Forgiveness is the answer for me. I am now struggling with forgiving the institution that sheltered the bully. I think I have some understanding — it was probably a basic economic justification: “Let’s get behind the boss guy – he’s worth more than this staff person,” but it’s still hard to forgive. I have a whole new career in an area I love, so I’m happier than I’ve ever been. To forgive the bully I imagined him on a trail in the woods with sunlight shining on him all around. I think I’ll endeavor to find some thing that represents the institution and put it also on the trail with the sun.

  32. I agreed. I was bullied at my work place and I still suffer from the trauma. I try to “get over it” as I have been told to many times but I feel it has changed me forever. I think the factors or it all is what tore me up so bad. I worked for a local Law Enforcement agency for a long time. Respected and commended for my work. I was a civilian. Until one day an older African-American woman gets mad at me, threatens me then to get herself out of trouble accuses me of saying ” you people.” That’s it… Just ” you people.” I was interrogated by two detectives, made to sign a purgery form, like they do those being arrested and questioned and taped. This went on over a year & I was removed from my work area where at times they just had me sitting at a desk in another office doing nothing at all. My co workers from my old work are started treating me poorly and asking me if I dislike African American & that they heard I didn’t. Upon “investigating” this matter I found out that one of the coworkers who begrudged me who was white accused me of the “you people” comment to get her friend out of trouble because she didn’t like me since high school & dating a guy she was friends with & her friend liked & was upset because he was dating me. I was degratted and told I needed counseling for my “race issues” and so on & that the dept is using me as an example & punishing me even though the detectives who interrogated me believed me. However, the head of the dept wanted me punished. I was transferred out of my job, given a bad reputation throughout this local gov branch & I can’t even get a interview anywhere in the city anymore. It has changed me forever. I have social anxiety because of it. I have trust issues. And at times if something reminds me of going through it…like going through it again, I break down & cry and become a recluse all over again. I was afraid for a whole to leave my house alone because of the mess I went through. I’m bitter at times. I’ve been doing better. I never wish harm or wanted to harm anyone but I’ve prayed for karma and I wanted to die myself at one point of time. Sometimes, if something happens to “trigger” my feeling again about the bullying I went though, I find sites like this to read & encourage myself to one know that I’m not alone & to make myself stronger. There needs to be a Anti-bullying law nation wide. It’s sad that no one really does anything to help those being bullied. For example a kid being bullied kills himself-result from public he should have been stronger-get over it. Another example: kid being bullied kills people who bullied him-well something must be wrong with him… The bully’s go Scott free to bulky the next person. If we want a better society, liberal and equality then fair treatment of all and professional common sense as well as not letting false bull crap fly and letting people unjustly accuse people of nonsense should be aloud or tolerated. There are all types of bullying and this country has the attitude that people don’t get bullied but they are just weak. It’s “macho” bull crap. And as for my instance a false accusation of racism shouldn’t trump a threat or be able to fly as much as it does in this country. It’s an escape goat and a free pass way too much. If its not true it’s evil.

  33. Pingback: Post-Traumatic Embitterment Disorder and workplace bullying | Mebo Research Brasil

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