Can Starting A New Job Cause Extreme Anxiety?

Question

Asked by LittleLamb

Can Starting A New Job Cause Extreme Anxiety?

I have been unemployed for over a year and a half. It was very difficult finding something because of my age (even though I don't look 58). I had lost my last job due to the company being sold. My mother had died about 10 months prior to that. She had been in a nursing home five years and due to what goes on in homes visited very day to feed her, bring her laundry and just general love her. We were very close. Prior to her becoming ill I had just lost a job of fifteen years and when she became ill she was supposed to come home. We had always lived together and during the time she was ill I had no support from my siblings. I held a medical and legal power of attorney for my mother even though she had no money. The nursing home years were a nightmare. Everything I had hoped was not true about them was. I was put on an antidepressant when my blood pressure went up and I couldn't stop my mind from racing. After my mother died I had a hard time adjusting to not being a caregiver but started to get it together. I went off the antidepressant about 8 months ago and felt fine. Now even though I am staring a new job next week that offers everything I want and need I am extremely anxious and fearful. I wound up taking a 25mg amount of the antidepressant that I still kept. What the heck is going on? Right now I really have no one to lend support.

Answer

While single stressful events can lead to a problem with anxiety, it is more likely that cummulative stress is responsible for extreme anxiety. By "cummulative stress" I mean a number of stressful events over the course of a year, or in your case, a number of years. To get a better idea of what I mean, check out the Stress Test.

There are several important things to note about the Stress Test. One is that positive changes as well as negative events are considered stressful. So, even though your new job may be great and it may be a very good thing that you have it, it is still a significant change from being unemployed and changes are stressful.

Also note that each event on the Stress Test is assigned a number of points. While the exact value is somewhat arbitrary, the points reflect the fact that some events are far more stressful than others (i.e. the death of a spouse is far more stressful than Christmas, so the number of points reflects that). After you checking off all the stressful experiences one has experienced in the past year, you can get a "score." The higher your score, the more likely you are to develop a stress-related illness, and anxiety is one possibility!

So, for you, in addition to starting a new job you've experienced the loss of your old job, extended unemployment, the death of your mother, and some difficulties having her in a nursing home. It is likely that your anxiety is not caused by the new job alone, but everything put together .... cummulative stress.

I hope that you will seek the help of a therapist to sort this all out as well as to get some help in relieving your anxiety. There are referrals on the Psychology Today website as well as the Anxiety Disorders Association of America's website.

Warm Regards,

Dr. Jennifer Fee

Answered by Jennifer L. Fee, Psy.D.