I was a victim of workplace mobbing during my employment as a paralegal at the law firm of Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld, during the period March 1988 to October 1991. The mobbing itself during my employment had psychological effects on me. I have come across a brief article by an expert in mobbing that points out that later court decisions involving litigation concerning the mobbing and later incompetent treatment by mental health professionals can compound the psychological ill effects of mobbing long after the employment situation has ended.
It seems plausible to me that uninformed agency and court decisions and incompetent handling of my case by mental health professionals unfamiliar with my specific problems has compounded the psychological trauma inflicted by the mobbing itself, which ended in October 1991.
Psychological Problems after Mobbing?
© Heinz Leymann
If we compare the difficulty of diagnosing our patients with that of, for example, individuals who have run-over and killed suicidal persons on train or subway tracks, we see pronounced differences. In general, people seem to be able to intuitively imagine how it must feel to try to brake a train that weighs hundreds of tons and how it feels, despite these desperate efforts, to finally run over the person who has laid on the tracks in order to die. Nevertheless, the driver´s PTSD reaction is -- statistically speaking -- very much milder than that of our patients who were victims of workplace mobbing. Also, a considerably smaller proportion of train engineers suffer a PTSD reaction or share severe PTSD diagnosis. Indeed the number is very small in comparison with that which prevails for patients such as ours, who almost all were diagnosed as having severe PTSD. This comparison might illustrate what the latter group of patients must have gone through in terms of psychological pain, anxiety, degradation, helplessness -- that led to such extensive PTSD injuries. The reactions of our patients can, on the other hand, , be compared with those accounted for in a Norwegian study concerning raped women.
By way of comparison with the high incidence of PTSD, it may be of interest to mention what the investigation of Swedish and Norwegian train engineers revealed, after the engineers had run over and killed suicidal individuals on the tracks: The frequency of high "intrusion" and "avoidance" values were considerably lower than in the present study. Even a study which mapped psychological problems in subway drivers in Stockholm shows a considerably lower frequency of drivers who developed psychological problems after having run over suicidal individuals on the tracks. The above-mentioned study of raped women shows very high values on the two IES scales. We recommend as a hypothesis that high IES (Impact of Event Scale) values are present if the traumatic event is followed by a series of further violations of the subjects´ rights and insults to their identities from different societal sources. This did not occur in the groups of engineers but it did occur in cases of raped women -- and, of course, in the mobbed employees in question in my studies. Mobbing and expulsion from the labor market are in themselves victimizations of trauma-inducing strength.
Our present hypothesis is that PTSD develops more severely if the traumatic situations last a long time and are followed by rights violations such as those conflicted by the judicial system or within the health care community, continue over a long period. Leymann carried out a major review of the literature concerning catastrophe psychiatry and victimology based on about 25,000 pages of scientific text. The objective was to make an inventory of the disappointments, insults and renewed traumas that follow an initial "causal trauma" -- a trauma which thereafter leads to what is called "traumatizing consequential events," due to society's structure and the way it functions. Many of these traumata are provoked by the way administrative instances deal with or abstain from dealing with the situation.
The mobbed employee who has become our patient suffers from a traumatic environment: psychiatric, social insurance office, personnel department, managers, co-workers, labor unions, doctors in general practice, company health care, etc., can, if events progress unfavorably, produce worse and worse traumata.
Thus, our patients, like raped women, find themselves under a continuing threat. As long as the perpetrator is free, the woman can be attacked again. As long as the mobbed individual does not receive effective support, he or she can be torn to pieces again at any time.
Thus, these individuals find themselves in a prolonged stress- and in a prolonged trauma-creating situation. Instead of a short, acute (and normal!) PTSD reaction that can subside after several days or weeks, theirs is constantly renewed: new traumata and new sources of anxiety arise in a constant stream during which time the individual experiences rights violations that further undermine his or her self-confidence and psychological health [such as rights violations inflicted by the U.S. Marshal Service!]. The unwieldy social situation for these individuals consists not only of severe psychological trauma but of an extremely prolonged stress condition that seriously threatens the individual's socio-economic existence. Torn out of their social network, the majority of mobbing victims face the threat of early retirement, with permanent psychological damage.