Psychopathological features of a patient population of targets of workplace bullying


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Abstract

BackgroundA strong association between workplace bullying and subsequent anxiety and depression, indicated by empirical research, suggests that bullying is an aetiological factor for mental health problems.AimsTo evaluate levels of stress and anxiety–depression disorder developed by targets of workplace bullying together with outcome at 12 months and to characterize this population in terms of psychopathology and sociodemographic features.MethodsForty-eight patients (36 women and 12 men) meeting Leymann Inventory of Psychological Terror criteria for bullying were included in a prospective study. Evaluations were performed at first consultation and at 12 months using a standard clinical interview, a visual analogue scale of stress, the Hospital Anxiety and Depression (HAD) scale, the Beech scale of stress in the workplace and a projective test (Picture-Frustration Study).ResultsAt first consultation, 81% of patients showed high levels of perceived stress at work and 83 and 52% presented with anxiety or depression, respectively. At 12 months, only 19% of working patients expressed a feeling of stress at work. There was a significant change in symptoms of anxiety while there was no change in symptoms of depression. Stress at work and depression influenced significatively capacity to go back to work. At 12-month assessments, workers showed a significantly better score on the HAD scale than non-workers. Over half the targets presented a neuroticism-related predominant personality trait.ConclusionWorkplace bullying can have severe mental health repercussions, triggering serious and persistent underlying disorders.

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