The Facts: Acute Episodic Stress

What is acute episodic stress? In this post I will give you the facts on stress and what happens when it occurs frequently.

In response to predators and danger, the body relies on stress to protect itself. The body floods with hormones that prepare it to face or evade danger. Often, people refer to this as a fight-or-flight response.

Challenges and threats force humans to react physically. In times of challenge, people can use physical resources to stay and overcome the challenge, or to escape as quickly as possible to safety.

As a result, the body produces higher amounts of cortisol, epinephrine, and norepinephrine. In response, these physical reactions occur:

  • Blood pressure increases
  • Muscle preparedness is enhanced
  • Feeling sweaty
  • An alert disposition

All of these factors improve an individual’s ability to manage potentially dangerous or challenging situations. Heart rates also increase when norepinephrine and epinephrine are released.

A stressor is an environmental factor that triggers this reaction. There are many things that can trigger anxiety and stress, such as noises, a speeding car, scary moments in movies, or even a first date. There is an inverse correlation between the number of stressors and the level of stress.

Effects on the physical body

Normal bodily functions, such as digestion and immunity, are slowed down by stress. The body can then focus on breathing, blood flow, alertness, and muscles preparation for a sudden demand.

As a result of an acute episodic stress reaction, the body undergoes the following changes:

  • Increased blood pressure and heart rate
  • Breathing becomes faster
  • There is a slowdown in digestion
  • Decreased immune activity
  • An increase in muscle tension occurs
  • A heightened state of alertness decreases sleepiness

The way a person responds to a difficult situation will determine how stress affects them. Multiple stressors can occur in a row or at once without causing a severe reaction in some people. Stress may have a stronger impact on some people than others.

When a person feels as though they do not have enough resources to cope, they will likely have a stronger reaction that could have a detrimental impact on their health. 

Even positive experiences, such as having a baby, going on vacation, moving to a better home, having a promotion, and going on vacation, can cause stress.

The reason for this is often the fact that they entail a substantial change, extra effort, new responsibilities, and a need to adapt. In addition, they often require people to take risks.

If someone receives a promotion, for example, they may be anticipating a higher salary, but wonder whether they will be able to handle the extra responsibilities that will come with it.

When you respond to challenges in a persistently negative manner, your health and happiness may be adversely affected.

Types of stress

  • Stress related to routine tasks, such as childcare, homework, or finances
  • An unexpected loss of a family member or a job loss can disrupt your life
  • Stress caused by extreme trauma, such as accidents, assaults, environmental disasters, or war

Experiencing episodic acute stress

It is usually the most common form of stress, being short-term and common. When people are faced with recent pressures or upcoming challenges in the near future, acute stress often develops. If this happens a lot, it is known as episodic acute stress.

A person may feel stressed about an upcoming deadline or a recent argument. This short-term or episodic acute stress, however, will go away once the dispute is resolved or the deadline is met.

Most acute stressors have an immediate and clear solution. People can get out of even the most difficult situations despite their challenges.

In comparison to long-term, chronic stress, episodic acute stress does not cause the same amount of damage. An upset stomach and tension headaches are some of the short-term effects.

Repeated episodic acute stress can, however, become chronic and harmful over time.