Phone: (510) 428-0111



Susceptibility to Stress

Certain factors may predispose an individual to react to stressful life events in either more or less traumatized ways. These factors include early childhood nurturing, personality traits one is born with, and genetic factors. Certain classes of individuals have also been found to be more vulnerable to the effects of stress than others, including: younger adults, women, working mothers, less educated individuals, divorced or widowed individuals, the unemployed, isolated individuals, people who are targets of racial or sexual discrimination, those without health insurance, and people who live in cities.

Causes of stress

Any sort of life change can make an individual feel stressed, even a positive change. It's not just the change or event itself that is stressful, but also how one reacts to it. What may be stressful is different for each person. For example, one person may not feel stressed by getting a new job, while another may. Other things that may be stressful include being laid off from a job, retiring, a child leaving or returning home, the death of a spouse, divorce or marriage, an illness, an injury, a job promotion, financial problems, moving, or having a baby.

Effects of Stress on Mind and Body

Studies suggest that the inability to adapt to stress is associated with the onset of depression or anxiety. In one study, two-thirds of subjects who experienced a stressful situation had nearly six times the risk of developing depression within that month. Stress diminishes the quality of life by reducing feelings of pleasure and accomplishment, and relationships are often threatened. Stress can also cause health problems or worsen pre-existing health problems if an individual does not learn ways of coping with stress. Stress can lead to, or worsen, the following problems:

Back pain, headaches, or stiff neck
Constipation, upset stomach, or diarrhea
Shortness of breath
Weight gain or weight loss
High blood pressure
Anxiety or depression
Relationship or family problems
Occupational problems

Reducing stress

The first part of stress reduction is to learn to recognize when one is feeling stressed. The next step is to choose a way to deal with the stress. One way is to avoid the situation that leads to the stress. Unfortunately, this is not always possible. Usually a more successful approach is to change how one reacts to the stressful situation. The following is a list of ways to improve one's tools for coping with stress:

Become aware of stressors and one's emotional and physical reactions.
Recognize which stressors one can avoid or eliminate.
Avoid worrying about things which one cannot control.
Prepare the best that one can for events that may be stressful.
Work to resolve conflicts with other people.
Seek social support from friends, family or professionals.
Set realistic goals at home and at work.
Exercise on a regular basis.
Eat well-balanced meals and get enough sleep.
Avoid nicotine, excessive caffeine, and other stimulants.
Get away from daily stresses with sports, social events and hobbies.

Stress and its related symptoms can be treated in psychotherapy under the care of a qualified Psychologist

In Psychodynamic therapy, one goal is to identify unresolved issues from childhood, which have continued into adulthood which may affect one's reactions to stressful life events. This type of therapy entails exploring thoughts, emotions, relationships, behaviors, and dreams. This process can help an individual understand and come to terms with his or her conflicts, which can in turn decrease negative reactions to stressful life events.
In Cognitive behavioral therapy, one goal is to decrease the physical tension which an individual may be experiencing in his or her body by desensitizing them to stressful situations. Another goal is to teach the individual how to recognize and cope with stress producing thoughts and feelings to prevent them from spiraling out of control.
A number or Relaxation techniques can be very helpful when an individual is feeling stressed, including: progressive relaxation, guided imagery, meditation, biofeedback, and hypnosis. These techniques can help decrease physical symptoms, anxiety and depression, as well as increase an individual's sense of being in control in their life.
Another goal of psychotherapy is to help an individual look at stressful life events as challenges, not as threats. An individual can react to stress by falling apart physically and emotionally or by learning from the stressful life event and becoming a stronger person. In psychotherapy, one can explore the effect of a stressful life event, how to best cope with it in the short-term, and how to find new ways of living to adapt to changes brought about by the stressful event.


Noah Oderberg, Ph.D.
5435 College Avenue, Suite #201
Oakland, California 94618
Phone: (510) 428-0111