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Ask Dr. Z Your Own Question

Dr. Z
Dr. Z, Psychologist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 5454
Experience:  Psy.D. in Clinical Forensic Psychology with a background in treating severe mental illnesses.
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I work for a public housing agency and I am terrified of working

Resolved Question:

I work for a public housing agency and I am terrified of working at a property we manage. I have been verbally attacked by the tenants and I am afraid it will escalate to physical attacks. I stay paranoid about my safety, as well as my fellow employees, and that I will be attacked. I am required to work there but I am beginning to get physically ill at the prospect of having to go back.
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Mental Health
Expert:  Dr. Z replied 1 year ago.

DoctorZ :

Hello I believe I can help you with your concern

DoctorZ :

Being verbally attacked at your workplace is very stressful, and I think your concern for possibly being physically attacked is valid

DoctorZ :

Have you notified the agency of this problem because you have a right to feel safe at your place of work?

DoctorZ :

How would you like me to help you tonight?

Customer:

Yes, I have. My supervisor was present and assisted when the tenant verbally attacked me. While he will no longer allow me to work alone on site, I still do not believe that he fully understands my concerns. We will be going back this week and he has already stated that the environment will be hostile due to reports he was given. I have requested police presence but he stated it wasn't necessary. I am truly afraid.

DoctorZ :

I definitely think security presence should be required for you. Can you go over your supervisor and speak to someone higher up?

Customer:

He is the executive director so he is the highest position. I have to work there because I need my job but I am not sure how long my nerves can take working with this.

DoctorZ :

What exactly do you do there?

Customer:

I am the property manager. I handle all occupancy related matters and supervise the one on site staff member. Before he was under my supervision, we also had a heated exchange. We also have knowledge that he is the one stirring up trouble with the residents onsite.

DoctorZ :

Oh wow, that is definitely not a good thing when you own employee is stirring up trouble with the tenants. Well I noticed that you are on an OTC nerve med, have you considered a stronger medication for anxiety and stress?

Customer:

Right now I am strongly considering it. I have not been to a professional regarding the matter though. This is my first experience.

DoctorZ :

Well i think your reaction is normal from what you are telling me, but you cannot leave your job, so I would like to offer advice on how to make it easier for you. I think seeing your general practitioner or even a psychiatrist for an anti-anxiety medication will help you (I think a benzodiazepine would be the most beneficial for you because they can be quick acting at the moment).

DoctorZ :

Also a lot of your stress and anxiety is because you have a negative type of thinking of what may happen to you if these verbal attacks escalate, so lets try to change that type of thinking to help you think more positive and that will help with your stress level a little bit

Customer:

I appreciate your advice and will certainly look into it. Since I will not be able to see anyone before I have to return to the property in question, do you have any advice on how to handle this stress issue until I can get in to see a doctor?

DoctorZ :

Now because you are fearing for your physical safety, have you considered self-defense classes and possibility training on how to use a taser?

Customer:

I carry pepper spray but that is all I have done at present. While it may sound extreme, I have even considered obtaining a gun permit.

DoctorZ :

Well if you do carry a gun, I would encourage you to have training on it too. The goal is trying to protect you. I worked in a prison as a psychologist, so I know some defense techniques that may help you if you would like to hear them.

Customer:

Of course. I'm so worked up right now about it I could cry. Please ay advice, tips, etc would be most appreciative.

DoctorZ :

Well always keep around 3-5 feet distance from people that are being aggressive to you. As they yell, you should talk in a normal volume to prevent escalation. Never get backed into a corner and try to have an escape route if anything happens.

DoctorZ :

Standard self-defense classes at your community center are usually regular and extremely affordable that can teach basic techniques on how to escape from most volatile situations.

Customer:

I will look into see if we have anything in the area. With the tasers, are you required to have any kinda of permit?

DoctorZ :

It mostly depends on what state you live in, but most states I believe do not require permits as this is still a new and relatively safe technology.

DoctorZ :

Also does your city have a public safety department (a little different then the police)?

Customer:

No. We are a pretty rural area here.

DoctorZ :

Okay, well you are more than welcome to tell the police about your troubles and they may increase patrols in your area. They can even have a community meeting in your building to help ease tensions.

Customer:

It may come to that, I just hope it doesn't cost me my job asking for police assistance when basically told not to. Since I have to go back Monday, your advice would be to try to change my way of thinking about the situation, correct?

DoctorZ :

Well I do not think it will cost you your job and you are not wanting the police to arrest anyone, just to be more present and active with the building to help you and the residents calm tensions down.

DoctorZ :

So this link may help you change your way of thinking, it contains a technique I use with patients called a thought record. It will help you keep track of any negative thoughts you have. You put the negative thought on paper, the emotion accompanying, the evidence to support it, and the evidence against it. Then I want you to come up with an alternative thought for the situation (more positive and plausible). This will help you change your way of thinking to be able to think more positive and not automatically go to a negative type of thinking.

DoctorZ :

But I also think you have a legitimate concern and once safety is better addressed at your place of work, I think a lot of your stress and anxiety will go away too. But hopefully this thought record will help as well.

Customer:

You're right. Thank you. I will try that as well.

DoctorZ :

Would you like a link to some self-help relaxation techniques to help you calm down in the moment of severe anxiety?

Customer:

Yes please. I do appreciate your help.

DoctorZ :

These techniques work really well and also work within minutes, so they should be of help to you

DoctorZ :

But do them after you have escaped from the scenario that caused you anxiety (e.g. someone yelling at you).

Customer:

When I work at this property, I actually stay at a hotel 25 minutes away which helps de-stress a little and this will certainly help that process. I use to just drink a few when I got to the hotel but this is a much better solution.

DoctorZ :

I think it will help you a lot as well

DoctorZ :

Is there anything else I can assist you with tonight?

Customer:

No, you have been an absolute dream! Thank you so much for your help and I will look into everything we have discussed.

DoctorZ :

Anytime, I am always happy to help

DoctorZ :

If you ever have any further questions or concerns please feel free to contact me at anytime

DoctorZ :

Oh and also when you finish rating, this chat can be sent as a link to your email so you can always use it for future reference

Customer:

Thank you. I was hoping to be able to save it. Great! Thanks again and have a great evening.

DoctorZ :

It was my pleasure to help, have a great night as well

Dr. Z, Psychologist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 5454
Experience: Psy.D. in Clinical Forensic Psychology with a background in treating severe mental illnesses.
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