How a romantic break-up can affect a company

Catherine is a 57-year-old CEO and major stockholder of a manufacturing company in Massachusetts that has gross sales of $14 million and an estimated value of $4 million. Two years ago, she became romantically involved with a member of her board of directors. He too was divorced. It was a positive and enjoyable romance until he abruptly ended it to return to his ex-wife. There was no warning, no discussion, just a terse announcement that the relationship was over.

Catherine was devastated. She was incapacitated with sadness, grief, constant crying, poor appetite and poor sleep. When she confided to her brother (also a stockholder) that she felt suicidal, he arranged for a psychiatric evaluation with me.

Catherine’s problems were complicated by a traumatic upbringing. She was raised in a boarding school where she was physically and psychologically abused by the staff. She had been married twice, and both husbands had been verbally and physically abusive toward her. The current rejection and loss were particularly traumatic for her because these old, underlying issues were complicating her ability to cope. Just as a house is only as sound as the foundation it is built on, Catherine’s ability to adjust was profoundly affected by her early childhood injuries.

Profoundly depressed, Catherine soon became incapable of running her company. She couldn’t concentrate. It was difficult for her to get out of bed, much less go to work and provide leadership for her 18-member sales force and 45-member production team.

Adding to her misery was the fact that her ex-boyfriend sought out opportunities to belittle and humiliate her. Board meetings were therefore particularly painful. And his ex-wife (now his girlfriend) was suspicious and vindictive toward Catherine, even though their relationship began long after the couple’s divorce.

The treatment

When I first met with Catherine, I performed a psychiatric evaluation to establish the extent of her difficulties and the underlying issues affecting her ability to heal. Although Catherine did not require hospitalization, she was a good candidate for antidepressant therapy and psychotherapy. I gave her my recommendations, and she agreed. She came to me for psychotherapy twice a week.

Once she started her medication and therapy, her productivity at the office increased dramatically. In hindsight, she determined that this episode of depression and her inability to function had caused $260,000 in losses to the company in the first six months. However, with a turnaround in her depression (which she enthusiastically attributes to the combined therapies), her productivity has now surpassed previous years.

Her company has been showing a profit of $160,000 for the last four months.

What was the therapy? First, an antidepressant improved her mood, relieved her severe anxiety and helped her sleep. Next, we began “Thought Field Therapy,” a relatively new and highly effective form of therapy that does not require discussion or insight.

TFT, as it is known, is best described as “psychological acupuncture.” It uses 4,000 years of knowledge from Chinese acupuncture to relieve the “energy” disturbances associated with depression, anxiety or trauma. In Catherine’s case, her improvement began quickly and continued over the next year. She credits both the medication and TFT with her success. Traditional psychotherapy, in my opinion, would have taken much longer (with or without medications) to achieve the same level of relief.

With her personal life and career back on track, Catherine is dating again. She is much better at fending off the “monkeys on her shoulder” that her ex-boyfriend tries to put on her. She is focused on the future. Our therapy has been concluded, and she is now receiving “life coaching” from me — an alternative to psychotherapy that focuses on a person’s strengths, future goals and quality of life.

David J. Schopick, M.D., a board-certified child, adolescent and adult psychiatrist, is a consultant and coach to businesses in the areas of executives in crisis, improving stress management and communication skills in the workplace, change management and workplace violence-risk assessments. He has a private clinical practice in Portsmouth.

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