How Sexual Harassment Can Affect Mental Health

mental health woman

Just like any traumatic event, workplace sexual harassment can lead victims to experience years of emotional, metal, and physical damage. People that have gone through sexual harassment can feel the lasting effects not only on the job, but also in other areas of their lives.

Not only are the actual circumstances horrific to undergo, but the aftermath can cause lasting harm for years to come if not dealt with properly. Psychologists are discovering that sexual harassment may lead to anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). 

Stress and Anxiety

Even one instance of sexual harassment in the workplace can trigger excess stress and anxiety, or make existing anxiety worse than before. The constant worry and fear of such an encounter happening again can put the body into a constant state of fight-or-flight. 

Studies show that over 90 percent of people that have suffered through sexual harassment will experience acute stress and anxiety. These reactions, which start in the mind, can manifest into such physical effects as, rapid heart rate, muscle tension and pain, and other illnesses.


Oftentimes, victims of sexual harassment or assult in the workplace will end up having feelings of guilt or shame surrounding the events. You might start to feel embarrassed, or even paranoid about people finding out or thinking it was your fault. 

You might start to question your value as an employee and wonder if you were hired for an ulterior motive.  These intrusive thoughts can lead to poor self-esteem, a low self-worth, and feeling of worthlessness, all of which can lead to a decline in mental health and depression.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

The effects of sexual harassment can turn into PTSD, particularly if the event involved forms of violence or assult. Sometimes the perpetrator may inflict threats, intimidation, or even acts of physical violence on their victim in order to gain control. Replaying the event in your mind can lead to PTSD.

Symptoms of PTSD can include flashbacks and nightmares about the terrible event, as well as anxiety, trouble sleeping, irritability and self-destructive behavior. Victims may find themselves in severe emotional distress just thinking about the event or anything that reminds them about what happened.

Stress, anxiety, depression and PTSD can lead to physical symptoms such as headaches, muscle tension, trouble sleeping and concentrating, fatigue, exhaustion, and even chest pain and digestive problems. Left untreated, these issues can lead to heart disease and other serious illness. 

It may become almost impossible to concentrate on doing your job or even return to work at all. That’s why it’s so important to seek help if you’ve been a victim of sexual harassment. If you believe you have experienced workplace sexual harassment in San Francisco, it’s important to get help.  

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 makes it illegal for employers to allow anyone to be sexually harassed or assulted at work by anyone else. This includes any unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, or any other physical or verbal harassment of a sexual nature or pertaining to one’s sex.

Clearly, sexual harassment in the workplace can lead to immediate mental health issues and long-term physical damage. It can be destructive to your work-life and even your personal life for years to come. Reporting the abuse and getting the help you deserve can save your life. 

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