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Top 10 Psychosocial Stressors

Psychosocial stressors are things that happen to us in the course of life that create an intense level of stress. That stress can contribute to the development or the aggravation of mental health issues, potentially addictions and other maladaptive behaviors. There are things that happen to us as a result of that event such as experiencing internal stress that goes into the body and the mind so that the more stressed out people are, the more they act out in addictive behavior. 

When we do assessments at Buckeye Recovery for someone coming in for mental health treatment or for addiction treatment all of these psychosocial stressors get addressed and evaluated one by one. We understand that the more stressors somebody has experienced, the higher the probability that the same person is going to have some challenges with their mental health and behavioral health. 

Here are the top 10 psychosocial stressors that can impact our lives.

1. Problems with your Primary Support Group

Your primary support group is usually the family nucleus of your parents, grandparents, certain aunts and uncles, or siblings, and whoever was the primary support around you when you were growing up. 

These could include major stressors such as death of a family member, disruption by divorce, physical or sexual abuse, and several others. Learn more about problems with your primary support group as a psychosocial stressor. 

2. Problems Related to Social Environment

This particular psychosocial stressor could be due to the loss of an identity, an adjustment to their life cycle such as retirement. Many people create an identity of who they are based on what they were doing for many years. When they stop doing that all of a sudden, they feel lost about basic questions like, “Who am I?” because they had identified with what they were doing, not who they were. This happens to athletes all the time, such as 35 year old male or female athletes that were professionals from 22 years old to 35. When they stop playing sports, they have no idea who they are. They go through some serious bouts of depression to overcome the void that’s existing in their life, like, “What’s my purpose in this world?”

3. Problems with Friend Circles

For some people their friends are their extended family and it becomes a social circle where they find their connections, and where they get their sense of belonging. When their friend circles change it impacts people. For example, high school kids from ages 14 to 18 years old create bonds with their friends which become their world, and when in senior year each of them goes to different places and some of them are left behind, it is a significant loss and takes a toll on the individuals.

4. Difficulty Assimilating into a Different Culture

For any immigrants or second generation immigrants, when their parents are from a different country, now living in the United States, it can be a very challenging experience because they had been raised a certain way, believing certain things, seeing the world a certain way. When they move to a new country, they try to hold on to the old and somehow infuse it into the new and it never works. The kids in that situation feel lost and torn. This kind of impact could also happen with those who move from state to state within the same country, so that kids would find themselves in whole new social groups where they look different than their peers, they dress differently than their peers and that can take a toll on them. 

The drug culture is also a different culture, where the music people listen to, the things people do, even the time of day they are awake and operating is different, the lingo, the hustle, the get by, it’s just completely different. Sometimes people cannot let go of that. They have a hard time going from the drug culture which is “get high, get by, survive at all costs.” Trying to be an upstanding citizen, trying to be a worker amongst workers, trying to be someone that’s contributing to society is a hard thing to do. 

In addition, there is discrimination in social environments that could happen to anyone, whether they are White, Black, Asian American, or Middle Eastern. Discrimination is something that could impact people, and there are ways to get empowered and work through that. 

5. Educational Problems

One example of educational problems could be learning disabilities. The majority of the teachers in our school systems unfortunately don’t have the ability or the resources to be able to give the love, the care, and the individualized treatment a child with a learning disability needs. Sometimes they are pulled out into an individual learning plan but the way such programs are rolled out might do more harm than good. Learning disabilities take a toll on people, leading to depression, anxiety and other mental health challenges.

Moving from school to school causes significant social anxiety in some children. If one’s parents have jobs that require frequently moving from place to place, that leads to uprooting the family. Military kids are taught that their parent is doing an honorable thing, and is a part of something greater than themselves, but when the child is going to 15 different schools in 18 years it potentially could take a toll on them because it brings up social anxiety. When it happens continuously over the course of someone’s life that has an impact on them because they also start to think and believe that they can’t make friends, if they make friends they are not going to be able to keep them, because they’re about to move again and they feel out of place, they feel like they don’t belong. 

6. Occupational Problems

The threat of a job loss is something that can upset someone’s whole world. Losing a job, getting unemployed, stressful work schedules all fall under occupational psychosocial stressors. Job change can be impactful because there’s a whole new office politics and culture one has to adjust to and a discord with the boss or co-workers can impact people. If you are someone who is having problems at work, and are frequently upset, frustrated, and resentful about your experience, it is important to explore other options.

7. Housing Problems

Housing problems are a psychosocial stressor that may include homelessness. A lot of homeless people are that way because of mental health issues such as trauma. There is an inordinate amount of abuse and discrimination against homeless people. Many homeless people report using methamphetamines because they don’t want to fall asleep at night, in case they may get assaulted sexually, or get beat up, or get robbed. 

Inadequate housing could be another big stressor when there is not enough housing for families that have seven, eight, or ten people living in a one or two bedroom apartment, which makes it challenging to be able to feel safe in the world. Not having a private space to unwind, living in unsafe neighborhoods, being raised in places where it is unsafe to walk home, discord with neighbors, are all housing related stressors that could have an impact on the family system. 

8. Economic Problems

Any kind of financial or economic problem is a stressor, but extreme poverty takes it to another level. Extreme poverty is when someone doesn’t have food on the table, electricity in the house, or Wi-Fi to stay connected. Unfortunately, the poverty in this country and in a lot of parts of the world is on the incline because the separation between the top and the bottom is starting to significantly increase. A lot of people that are in early recovery are people whose families are wiped out, and may not be able to feed another person. Community colleges, state-funded health care and food cards are helpful to get through another day but don’t necessarily remove the stress that economic problems cause.

9. Access to Health Care

When people don’t have adequate health care service access, they end up in places that have waiting lists of three months, places where they can’t see who they need to see, places that don’t have enough beds to sleep on, places that don’t have the ability to treat underlying mental illness and your traumas. Most often these are the people who end up back on the streets.

10. Problems with the Legal System

Many recovery patients inevitably find themselves getting a DUI, whether it’s getting a drug possession, whether it’s theft, assault, or domestic violence. Once they get into the legal system, it creates a lot of fear and frustration because there is a significant financial component to it. If one can pay off what they can to avoid going to jail that’s going to take a toll. If they can’t pay it off and they end up in jail, that’s also going to take a toll. Eventually getting out of incarceration is also an uphill battle. Many of those who end up in jail were born in broken homes and broken families, broken societies and broken communities. Which means it’s not just their home that’s broken – it’s every home around them that’s also broken. It’s not just their dad that’s in prison, it’s every dad and uncle and cousin around them that’s in prison. Kids raised in these communities end up on the streets with other kids out there just like them. Arrest and incarceration impacts communities.

Other Psychosocial Stressors

The last group includes other psychosocial stressors that haven’t been covered in the previous sections. These could include exposure to disasters such as Hurricane Katrina, or the earthquakes that happen across the world, or wars, or other intense events that can cause trauma which then leads to depression, anxiety, substance use and other mental health and behavioral health issues.

If you have experienced some of these psychosocial stressors, recognize that you are a resilient human being. If you experience any of those it shows that you understand that despite what’s happened to you in your life, in your story, that there’s another way forward. Sometimes those events are painful, years go by, decades go by, we don’t want to look at them, we don’t want to think about them, we don’t want to process them, which leads to more pain and other challenges and disorders. Therapies such as EMDR can go a long way toward healing from trauma. 


If you experienced grief and loss, get into support groups, work about it, journal it, talk about it, heal from it. If you experienced discrimination growing up, go and give back to communities, help people that are probably getting discriminated against right now. Be a part of the solution and watch how your personal experience not only starts to make you stronger and helps you heal but how it will positively benefit the lives of others. If you make a positive impact in this thing we call our world, that when you die somebody else will live a life that is much better because of the impact you had on them.  

Today is going to be the best day of your life.

Kelsey Gearhart

Director of Business Development

Kelsey carries multiple years of experience working in the substance abuse and mental health treatment field. Her passion for this field comes from her personally knowing recovery from addiction.

Prior to Buckeye she held titles of Recovery Coach, Operations Director, and Admissions Director. Kelsey was brought on at Buckeye Recovery as the Director of Business Development. She has a passion for ensuring every individual gets the help that they need, and does so by developing relationships with other providers.

Kelsey also oversees our women’s sober living environments – The Chadwick House for Women. She is committed to creating a safe, nurturing, and conducive environment for all women that walk through the doors of Chadwick.