I GOT THE DREAM POSITION – but Really? – A case of Episodic Stress Disorder

Imagine my happiness when four years after school I ran into Tellia one of my three roommates from university. She took me right down memory lane; to our first year on campus when Ruth, Tellia, and I became virtually inseparable, we were going to be the best and brightest in the business school and after we would take the banking industry by storm. We would come out with such innovative ideas that in no time we will be at the top of our careers.For more information visit us at sicklecelltrustjamaica.com/

Well that was first year at university; after business school Tellia and I decided to go into other business areas but Ruth continued with her dream and indeed took the banking industry by storm and within four years had been promoted to the position of a Branch Manager of a large branch of her bank.

After our usual pleasantries and catching up, Tellia with a serious tone said “you have to go see Ruth, she’s not doing too well; the look of concern in her eyes got to me, so two days after I drove to Ruth’s house. Orders from head office had forced her to take some time off to rest as she had made several mistakes in the past two months of the eight months that she has been a branch manager.

As we sat to chat, Ruth continuously protested her forced leave and said she had too many things to accomplish to be taking a leave, but she also said since she became a branch manager she had come to see that there were lots of people who did not like her and had been working to see her fail. She has such great ideas that will make the bank the best in the sub region in a short time but head office and all the top management were working against her achieving this objective for the bank ; she said. She also said they seemed to have bewitched her resulting in frequent headaches and other unexplainable diseases. According to her husband, soon after Ruth’s promotion she started complaining about everyone and everything at home and it turned out that it was the same in the office since some of her colleagues complained to him about her changed attitude and frequent irritability and unkindness to staff and even sometimes clients.

After two more visits within the week, I managed to convince Ruth to see a Therapist. I accompanied her to her first two sessions. Two months later I met a much livelier Ruth who according to her was beginning to enjoy life from a better perspective. She said the Therapist had after assessment and some more history diagnosed Episodic Stress – something she had vehemently protested at first but had eventually come to see that the Therapist had led her to discover herself, her attachment to, and meaning of work as well as her life as a wife and mother among other things. I am ready to be a better branch manager in fact a better me; she said.

So what is Episodic Stress?

Episodic Stress is one of three main kinds of Stress; that is Acute Stress, Episodic Stress and Chronic Stress. Stress is the body’s reaction to any change that requires an adjustment or response. The body reacts to these changes with physical, mental, and emotional responses.  When one senses danger—whether real or imagined—the body’s defense system is activated and a rapid, automatic process known as the “fight-or-flight” reaction or the “stress response sets in;” this is the body’s way of protecting the individual. This is Acute stress and it takes place over a short duration. When working properly, acute stress helps one to stay focused, energetic, and alert. It can also help the individual rise to meet challenges; such as keeping focused and alert during a presentation at work, sharpening concentration when preparing for an examination and giving one a competitive spirit and edge. Therefore stress can be good (eustress); but no matter how good stress is, beyond a certain point it stops being helpful and starts causing major damage to health, mood, productivity, relationships, and quality of life.

Episodic Stress occurs when acute stress is experienced too frequently, when one takes on too many tasks, as a result of a combination of self-imposed pressures and external demands and the individual becomes overwhelmed by all the demands with an inability to meet those demands. From a personality perspective, the “Type A” personality is said to be prone to, or exemplifies an extreme case of episodic acute stress. The Type A’s have an “excessive competitive drive, aggressiveness, impatience, and a harrying sense of time urgency.” Such individuals according to Friedman and Rosenman are much more likely to develop coronary heart disease than other personality Types.

It is common for people with episodic acute stress to have symptoms of over arousal, short-temperedness, irritability, anxiety and perception of doom in almost everything around them. It could also lead to persistent tension headaches, migraines, hypertension, chest pain and heart disease.

Chronic stress: Chronic stress is the response to emotional pressure suffered for a prolonged period of time in which an individual perceives to have little or no control. Usually, people with chronic stress do not try to seek care/help because they tend to think their situation is hopeless. This is the kind of stress usually experienced in unhappy marriages, dysfunctional families, in situations of prolonged persecution or ethnic conflicts.

Stress Management

Effective stress management initially includes the proper recognition of stress, the stressor, the manifestations, and its effect on one’s well-being. Specifically, treating episodic acute stress requires intervention on a number of levels including active self-examination, and generally requiring professional help, which may take many months. The more one becomes aware of his/her specific symptoms, the easier it will be to create healthy stress reducing habits for the future.

Therapy and Medication: If you feel like you are suffering from episodic acute stress, the first thing you should do is see a doctor or a Therapist/Psychologist; this will allow for proper diagnoses. A therapist/Psychologist will help you to talk through the problems and see if there is a way to solve them without medication. However, where it is necessary he/she may refer you to a psychiatrist who will prescribe medications as part of the treatment.

Meditation and Deep Breathing: Mindfulness training which includes deep breathing exercises can help to reduce stress by letting the bloodstream receive a balanced amount of gases and oxygen. This gives the brain the signal to begin releasing mood-enhancing endorphins, thus helping with reducing stress, creating better moods, and increasing the individual’s motivation to work towards getting better. Meditation helps you get to your core and helps you to relax.

Eliminating the Stress: It may not always be possible to eliminate the cause of the stress, but it is an option worth trying because it will help the individual to feel better and set him/her on a course to recovery. This could be achieved by trying to reduce the amount of work and activities that one engages in.

Being Kind to Yourself/Treating Yourself Well: Take a little extra time for yourself by exercising; eating well – balanced meals; setting realistic goals; building your social support network and asking for help when you need it. In places where there are Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) take advantage of them.

If you have found this blog helpful let us know. You can also contribute if you are experiencing stress or know someone who is going through or has gone through a situation you identify to have the potential to lead to episodic stress and is willing to share his/her experience. Ensure that as much as possible the individual remains anonymous to protect his/her dignity and right to privacy. Remember also that people experience and react to stress differently.

If you are a student and want to read more check out

Folkman. S., Lazarus. R.S. (1986). Stress process and depressive symptomology, Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 54, 466-475

Friedman, M.; Rosenman, R. (1959). “Association of specific overt behaviour pattern with blood and cardiovascular findings”. Journal of the American Medical Association169 (12): 1286–1296. Doi:10.1001/jama.1959.03000290012005

Mae, S.  (2012). Stress and Cognitive Appraisal. Retrieved May 10, 2019 from Explorable.com: https://explorable.com/stress-and-cognitive-appraisal

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