Last Updated on September 26, 2023
I would be covering on blood pressure that is out of control or unstable in adults which is triggered by extreme emotions and stress. In this article, I would cover related to adults, while in a separate article, I would specifically cover on elderly because the triggers are very different.
Note: It is very important to monitor our blood pressure on regular basis and to seek out a doctor for consultation when we notice unusual fluctuations in our blood pressure. Regardless of the reason, when the blood pressure elevates or drops, immediate medical assistance is very important. I’ve created a free template/printable to track blood pressure which you can download from this link.
Reason I wish to share this to show there may be a strong correlation between emotional factors and extreme stress that may cause abnormal fluctuations of blood pressure. This is usually made worse if the person also have supporting lifestyle factors such as being sedentary and just eat whatever they want.
Story 1- Blood pressure of a big boss whose pressure (systolic) shot up to above 200mmHg
This person was brought in as a head of department. Let’s call him Adrian. Within a few months of being in that role, Adrian was suddenly hospitalized due to high elevated blood pressure. His blood pressure …systolic shot to above 200mmHg and maintained in that level. Diastolic itself was above 150mmHg. The company provided good medical coverage hence he was in a private hospital, receiving the best treatment.
Initially, the doctor was not able to bring down his blood pressure. No matter what medication that was given, his blood pressure remained high. According to the doctor, a person with his blood pressure would have already got a stroke. and the doctor had already given him the highest dose of the medication that can be given. Due to his life threatening condition, the hospital could not discharge him.
After about more than a week of being hospitalized and undergoing intense monitoring, his pressure was brought down to below 200 but was still hypertensive level. Hence he was prescribed with high blood pressure medication and was discharged.
The moment Adrian came back to work and after attended a meeting, again his blood pressure shot up and he was again hospitalized. The doctor finally ask him if there was anything stressful that could have caused his blood pressure to go out of control. When he told the doctor what happened, the doctor advised him that the job is hazardous to his health and if he cannot manage, it is best to resign.
Adrian thought about it for a while and handed in his resignation letter soon after. I manage to speak to him before he left and he shared with me about his experience. Basically, Adrian have a kind heart. He had prior experience of working in senior positions hence the job itself was not a problem.
The issue lies in one of the top management boss, let’s call him Doug that Adrian was reporting to. Basically, Doug was an expat. When Doug came in, he wanted to bring a lot of dramatic changes in the company. He would not tolerate anyone or anything that got into his way. He gave Adrian instructions to have certain ruthless implementations as well as arranging to manage out certain people that he (Doug) did not like.
Even though Doug was an expat, it would be impossible for him not to understand about labor law. It is commonsense that in the corporate world today, we cannot just fire someone just because we do not like them. There needs to be a very strong justification. Of course, Doug was not the work who would be doing the dirty work and if anything, it would be Adrian who would be answerable.
Adrian could not bring himself carry out Doug’s instructions to manage out a list of people. This cause Doug to instead try to manage Adrian out, just like how he had managed out the few before Adrian (Adrian’s position have been changing in less than a year since Doug came in). Doug did so by adopting emotional intimidating and bullying. He would humiliate Adrian in meetings, sometimes screaming, sometimes issuing silent threats.
It was after a few months of enduring this that Adrian’s blood pressure suddenly elevate beyond normal. Adrian said that during his hospital stay, he had time to reflect deeply on his current condition. In the end, he decided he had to resign in order to survive. He had a wife and a young child- and he told me he wanted to be alive and there for them.
Eventhough it meant he had to resign without a job. If he had continued, he would likely, as the doctor said be driven to get a stroke. All the money in the world is not worth being in such a mental and emotional torment. Fortunately his wife is working so he said temporarily they would rely on her till he was able to find another job. But they face a challenge because generally a company would not want to hire someone with unstable blood pressure condition.
It was also through Adrian that I first understand about the term psychopath. Adrian said that he when he was in the hospital, he also spent time trying to understand why Doug had behaved in such a way towards him. Through research, Adrian realized that he was dealing with a psychopath who would mentally torture and try to break him.
The strange thing while Adrian was serving his notice, Doug stopped bothering him anymore. Doug moved on to his next target. Adrian’s blood pressure actually went back down to normal, as prior to all this, Adrian was not on any blood pressure medication.
The good ending to this is very soon, Adrian was able to land in another job as a head of department as well. This is because Adrian had many years of experience in the industry and have a good network so he was recommended to the new company.
Story 2- My late dad when computer was introduced to his company
My late dad worked in the press and he started before computer was invented. When he was in his 40s, his company transitioned to computerised system. Computers were just being introduced and it was something totally alien to everyone. Prior to that, my dad would write everything in a manuscript type paper and typists would had all these typed out for print.
When it was mandatory for all staff to start using computer, my dad had to attend computer lessons. It was a tough and extremely stressful time and he had problem grasping the concept of technology. It is not merely typing in English…. as his medium was Chinese. In order to have Chinese words to appear, they have to put in certain pronounciation to have the words come out.
That time was when his family needed money the most as us kids were schooling and there were a lot of expenses. My dad could not afford to give up or switch job. He had a lot of pressure trying to switch from writing to using a computer. It was during that time that his blood pressure started going out of control. Not long later, he had his first stroke but fortunately he was able to appearently recover from it. He was required to take high blood pressure medication. But with time, he did eventually get used to the computer and worked another 10 years before he retired.
Eventually, it was a second stroke that ultimately took his life not long after he retired when my mom was undergoing treatment for her tonsil cancer.
Story 3- My own blood pressure was going up during my final years in corporate
I had worked in demanding corporate jobs for a long time. Most of the time I also have an active gym membership going. However during the late years of my corporate career, the pressure was enormous. This is because experienced staff were leaving in droves due to the work culture in the company. The limited staff who were left behind find themselves with increasing burdens and responsibilities.
Eventually after years of stress and pressure, my blood pressure started to move up. The systolic started to hover above 140/ 90 mmHG. The doctor warned me that if I fail to keep my bp down, I would need to start blood pressure medication. I tried to be even more active and exercised more…. I feel it helped to a certain extend that at least my bp elevate beyond control as exercising helped to reduce stress. Still, my blood pressure remained high.
When I resigned from my corporate job to become a full time caregiver, my blood pressure dropped back to normal.
What the condition tells us
For adults, stress play a huge role in flunctuations of blood pressure. We thought that people who lose their temper easily would have uncontrolled blood pressure but it is suprisingly not always the case. Previously I was a vocal person and would not hesitate to speak my mind and sometimes would lose my temper. It is not something I would recommend because it would cause one to offend others and hurt their feelings.
However, it has been my observation that those who are reserved and kept their feelings to themselves and are unable to express it due to responsibilities and livelihood are at higher risk. Like in the case of Adrian and my late dad, both were not bad tempered person. Like a pressure that gets build up internally like a pressure cooker- when there is no release of the pent up emotions of stress, fear and anger, the pressure builds up within. It makes the person a literal walking time bomb.
It is important to seek treatment for the condition because fluncutating blood pressure is dangerous and is a walking time bomb with high risk of getting stroke. While the doctor evaluate and treat the physical symptoms, we need to explore if there are possible emotional stressors that could be contributing to the uncontrolled blood pressure (even with medication).
We need to identify the possible emotional cause and decide on the next course of action. It is either to change the environment that we are in. If we cannot do so, then the final option left is to change the way we deal with the situation.
For example in the first example I have mentioned, Adrian was not the only victim that endure humiliation and emotional torment from Doug. A few were often humiliated and attacked openly in meetings, being cold storaged and moved to a redundant position in an attempt to make them resign on their own accord. In corporate world, when a stafff who previously had power and was performing gets cold storaged, the humiliation is very hard to bear. To those people, they had huge financial commitments and really could not afford to go without a job. So they stayed, but tried to remain low profile to keep off Doug’s radar. They know that legally Doug cannot fire them because they had not done anything wrong. In the end, being an expat, Doug left after about 2 terms and it was bright and sunny skies again.
Sometimes circumstances and responsibilities we have in life does not allow us to just get up and walk away. We have no choice but to stay. While we cannot alter the external environment, we can control our responses to it. I know of people who have been through a lot in life that build enormous resillience in them that they do not let external situations get to them because their know their priorities well that it is not easy for others to affect them.
Note: I would be writing a separate post in my Caregiving blog with regards to uncontrolled blood pressure in elderly because their issue is no longer caused by work stress. I would link the article here once it is published.