Psychotic People in the Workplace

Beware the angry coworker who erupts for no reason.
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Mental illness affects one in four American adults. Look around you, if three of your closest co-workers are perfectly normal then you might want to get checked out. Although it’s amusing to make jokes about certain employees who look like they are going to go “postal," mental illness in the workplace can be a problem. Every so often the evening news reports that an employee has snapped under the stress and attacked other workers. Being able to recognize psychosis in fellow employees can keep you safe.

Psychotic Definition

    Although we use the term psychotic to define behaviors that we see in people, the more correct definition is that it's a symptom of mental illness. Individuals suffering from illnesses such as schizophrenia, delusional disorder or bipolar disorder sometimes act out and these occurrences are the psychosis. These acts such as hallucinations or delusions occur in people with severe forms of mental illness. Of course when a fellow employee is no longer taking a prescribed medication and is yelling at you for drinking the last of the coffee, you’re probably not that concerned about the clinical diagnosis.


    The guy who keeps asking to borrow your stapler while ogling your sweater is not psychotic, just creepy. While it is convenient to label your less-than-normal co-workers as psychotic, the truth is that certain behaviors are clearer signs than others. Individuals who keep to themselves and do not participate in any social functions may have some beginning signs of psychosis. Displays of unexplained paranoia is also a sign of psychotic behavior. The key here is unexplained paranoia, such as wearing sunglasses and a hoodie while checking to make sure no one is following them to the bathroom. Being paranoid about losing a job is perfectly normal even if it is irritating. When the guy staring at your sweater starts accusing you of stealing the sweater from his mother and taunting him, then he’s delusional and you should go to the human resource department immediately.

Psychotic Episodes

    Even though there is a lot of news coverage when they happen, mass murders in the workplace are still pretty rare. This causes some people to be less than vigilant about reporting psychotic behaviors. A recent ABC News report states that individuals who make threats of violence or seem to be seething in anger are more likely to commit workplace violence. It is best not to ignore a co-worker threatening to come in and shoot everyone who took the last bit of coffee and didn't make more. It may sound silly and ridiculous but it could also be the start of something worse. Some other signs of psychotic behaviors include stalking, threatening emails and delusions of grandeur.

Staying Safe

    Many mental illnesses can be managed with medication. It is not your job though to make sure that your fellow employees are taking their prescriptions. Your job is to stay safe. The best way to do that is to stay vigilant of bizarre behavior. Report strange behavior or criminal activity such as harassment and stalking right away. Keeping quiet can cause these behaviors to escalate to the point where a person becomes dangerous. Sometimes women are too nice and they do not want to offend anyone. If you feel that you are in a dangerous situation, trust your gut and get out of there. Listening to your instincts can keep you safe. When someone starts showing signs of psychotic behavior remain nonthreatening and remove yourself from the area.

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