Episodic Acute Stress: Reocurring Anguish

Episodic acute stress mostly affects a very specific type of personality and it can be very dangerous. Learn more with us!
Episodic Acute Stress: Reocurring Anguish
Valeria Sabater

Written and verified by the psychologist Valeria Sabater.

Last update: 15 November, 2021

Episodic acute stress often puts sufferers’ lives at risk. It’s an ongoing psychological state of high wear and tear. It comes very intense and then disappears for a short time. Likewise, it’s also important to note that, usually, it’s associated with a very specific personality profile.

We refer to the profile that American cardiologists Meyer Friedman and Raymond Rosenman defined in the 1950s as “type A personality“. These people are competitive, very demanding of themselves, and tend to live with a permanent sense of urgency.

These patterns of behavior and emotional processing are somewhat problematic. They’re defined by impatience, impulsiveness, mismanagement of emotions, and sometimes even hostility. However, the most dangerous fact is that subjects with this personality type are more likely to suffer from cardiovascular problems.

Let’s delve a little deeper.

Acute episodic stress: typology, symptoms, triggers, and treatment

Episodic acute stress is one of the three most common typologies of this psychological condition. From a therapeutic standpoint, it’s essential to learn about the trigger that’s mediating the person’s physical and mental wear. Therefore, it’s important to remember these three distinctions:

  • Chronic stress disorder. Factors such as work or complicated family and personal situations can mediate this reality. Stress is a continuum in the patient’s life.
  • Acute stress disorder. It defines a state of stress that generally appears after a sudden and unexpected event or trauma. The situation of suffering, hyperarousal, and exhaustion can last up to a month.
  • Acute episodic stress disorder. As we mentioned above, this type of disorder appears in “type A” personalities. These people are obsessed with perfectionism and, additionally, have poor emotional control. It’s also a state that appears and disappears and seriously impacts health.

Additionally, another element is vital to consider. Many of the people who suffer this type of stress don’t seek professional help. They pretty much just think that always being stressed is part of their personality. However, it’s necessary to offer adequate psychological measures to mediate towards a healthier change in order to keep them physically and psychologically healthy.

A man feeling stressed out.

The symptoms of episodic acute stress

As we already pointed out, there’s a problematic aspect of episodic acute stress disorder. Basically, those who suffer from it don’t think they need help. They can’t see that their way of reacting is usually disproportionate or that they just don’t know how to manage their emotions. They understand that life is complex and that they must adapt to it no matter what.

The most characteristic symptoms of this condition are the following:

  • A constant state of irritability and bad mood.
  • Exacerbating even the smallest everyday problems. This, of course, makes the person feel that everything surpasses them, which intensifies their bad mood.
  • Muscle stiffness, tension, and feeling of heaviness throughout the body.
  • Tension headaches.
  • Digestive problems, dizziness, and constant tachycardia.
  • Generally speaking, these people end up suffering from hypertension and cardiovascular problems.

Likewise, it’s important to note that panic attacks accompany episodic acute stress in many cases.

The causes of episodic acute stress

Episodic acute stress is the clear result of a hypersensitive and demanding personality style. As we said above, these people are fast-paced, constantly alarmed, and feel that they aren’t fulfilling their goals.

The so-called type A personality, defined by American cardiologists Meyer Friedman and Raymond Rosenman, is, above all, a bad manager of frustration, anger, and rage. These individuals tend to be competitive, to the point where they need to prove to themselves that they can achieve what they set out to do. When this doesn’t happen, desolation and panic appear.

Moreover, studies such as those conducted by Dr. Mark P. Petticrew establish that the behavioral pattern associated with personality A is little more than “the icing on the cake” for coronary heart disease.

Treatments for stress

There are many effective treatments for stress. However, not all techniques are valid for each person. Therefore, it’s essential to consider every person’s individuality when looking for treatment for them.

In general, people with episodic acute stress can benefit from the following therapeutic strategies:

A man talking with his psychologist.

Emotional control techniques

People who find it hard to control their emotions and impulses benefit greatly from emotional control techniques. Some of the most appropriate in these cases are:

  • Control techniques for irritability and anger.
  • Logic reasoning.
  • Thought regulation.
  • Emotional self-regulation.
  • Assertiveness.
  • Deep breathing.
  • Muscle relaxation.
  • Mindfulness.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy

Cognitive-behavioral therapy can help the person understand how they think and how those mental processes affect their emotional states and behaviors. That being said, the goals of this therapy are the following:

  • Changing the person’s way of thinking, which fuels stress, impulsivity, and self-demand.
  • Encouraging the person to calmly focus on the present moment, identify the causes of their distress, and work on them to improve their mood.

To conclude, we need to point out another important aspect. Sometimes, you may get caught up in behaviors that you believe to be normal or personality traits when, in reality, they’re clear pathological states. Normalizing stress in your daily life dilutes well-being and seriously impacts your health. Keep this in mind.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Petticrew, M. Lee, K. & McKee, M. (2012). Type A Behavior Pattern and Coronary Heart Disease: Philip Morris’s “Crown Jewel”. Am J Public Health, 102(11): 2018-2025.
  • Friedman, H. & Booth-Kewley, S. (1987). Personality, Type A Behavior, and Coronary Heart Disease: The Role of Emotional Expression. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 53(4): 783-792.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.