Sexual harassment in the workplace is nothing new, but the issue is seeing a tidal wave of recognition and attention as celebrities, co-workers and others step up to accuse Hollywood heavy weights like Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey and Louis C.K. of sexual misconduct.
Through their stories, we’ve learned that sexual harassment can wreak havoc on its victims, and can cause not only mental health issues, but physical effects as well.
Dr. Colleen Cullen, a licensed clinical psychologist, notes that for victims of sexual harassment, the most common diagnoses are depression, anxiety, and even post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
“An experience [with sexual harassment] can either trigger symptoms of depression and anxiety that are new to the person; or it can exacerbate a previous condition that may have been controlled or resolved. Patients may also see a worsening of symptoms,” says Dr. Cullen. “Some research has found that sexual harassment early in one’s career in particular can [cause] long-term depressive symptoms.”
“Employees talk of having a pit in their stomach commuting to work, having anxiety, panic attacks, inexplicable fits of crying and physical manifestations of stress: hair falling out, hives, weight gain or loss, sleeplessness and lethargy,”
Dr. Cullen adds that the feelings of shame or guilt that a person may feel when sexually harassed at work can devastate their self-esteem and sense of self-worth as a professional.