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What is Low Frustration Tolerance

Updated on March 31, 2013

Low Frustration Tolerance

There are many challenges people with low frustration tolerance face.
There are many challenges people with low frustration tolerance face. | Source

Describing Low Frustration Tolerance

We get frustrated when our needs, or our wants are not met. We get frustrated when obstacles get in our way, or when things make us uncomfortable. Frustration is something that happens to all of us.

People who get frustrated or upset easily, usually have a low frustration tolerance.

Low frustration tolerance is the feeling that something is too hard to endure. A person will magnify the discomfort and the mere thought of it occurring will make it intolerable. If you think like this, you may end up disturbing yourself with your obsessions of how intolerable the situation seems to you. With thinking like this, you will become more stressed about things than may be necessary.

We all face obstacles, hassles, difficulties, and disappointments. When things are not the way people want them to be, when our demands and desires are not met, we have no tolerance for these uncomfortable feelings.

If you are not as bothered by short term frustrations and can deal with difficulties you may have a high frustration tolerance.

Good mental health and having a high frustration tolerance are related.

Low frustration tolerance was first described by Dr. Albert Ellis, who created REBT, Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy, which is based on the concept of CBT, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. CBT is formulated on the idea that irrational beliefs affect emotional functioning and moods including depression, anxiety, self defeating behaviors and angry feelings. Irrational beliefs are contradictory to happiness and satisfaction. Irrational beliefs get in the way of our basic desires for approval and love, for security, and for success.

Acting on Frustration

Low Frustration Tolerance makes people act irrational.
Low Frustration Tolerance makes people act irrational. | Source

What is High Frustration Tolerance?

Learning to have a high frustration tolerance means accepting responsibility for the very thoughts you have that impact how you think and behave. Learning to change your beliefs, and being able to accept frustrating situations is something that is within your control to do.

Much of it has to do with the things we tell ourselves and how we think.

People who have low frustration tolerance think:

  • I can’t allow myself to feel frustrated

  • I can’t do without

  • I can’t let myself be inconveniences

  • I need things to work they way they should

  • I want my life to be easy

  • Things have to go my way

  • I want what I want

  • Thing need to be comfortable for me all the time

  • I don’t want to deal with unpleasantness

  • I want attention

  • I don’t want to deal with poor service or ignorant people

  • I want what I want now

  • I don’t want to wait

  • I don’t like doing this

  • I am fearful and want this feeling to go away

  • I don’t want to feel uncomfortable

  • I don’t have patience for this

  • I don’t want to waste my time

People with low frustration tolerance are often not purpose oriented. They give up easily and lose their direction because they don’t want to deal with the obstacles that come before them. They believe that it is terrible to have to wait for something or withstand discomfort. They are the drivers who blow their horn the minute the person doesn’t move when the light turns green. They become unhinged at the slightest thing that doesn’t go their way. They may even have public outbursts that may affect the way other people view them.

Those with a low frustration tolerance may drink or take drugs to self medicate to calm themselves. They can become so desperate to settle their discomfort they may lash out at their family. People with a low frustration tolerance can’t put up with normal aggravations. Their thinking causes them distress.

If you see yourself in any of this, you can learn to change your thoughts and develop patterns to gain a higher frustration tolerance. Learning to cope is part of the solution. Change your thoughts and you change your world.

Understanding Low Frustration Tolerance

Challenge your thoughts. Dispute the things you tell yourself. You can tell yourself that things don’t have to go your way. You can change the way you think by looking at things differently. Tell yourself that even though you don’t like it this way, you can still handle it. Try not to make things into a disaster. Help yourself get through it with logic instead of being led by your emotions. The more tolerance you gain, the more control you will have over the frustration you are feeling.

Children throw tantrums when they don’t get their way. Children don’t want to wait, they want their demands met right now. Children cry and scream when they get frustrated. As children grow, they learn to deal with the everyday frustrations in a calmer manner.

Having a high frustration tolerance will make your life a lot easier because you will be able to persevere through the difficulties.

Low frustration tolerance blocks emotional growth. The thinking is not backed up by any evidence. It is based on irrational thinking. When we allow ourselves to think that something is unbearable. Letting yourself become agitated, tense, having a short attention span and getting out of situations that are too much for you to deal with. By allowing negative thoughts to influence your behavior you are causing more anxiety within yourself.

People with low frustration tolerance have an I can’t stand it attitude. They feel like they can’t do without, that they need and deserve to feel comfortable at all times. Their thoughts tell them they can’t live without something, that there are things they can’t tolerate, things are out of control, and feel overwhelmed. They believe things are too hard, too boring, too heavy, too much, too much to bear.

Often people who have low frustration tolerance will turn things into a catastrophe, and in their minds make it worse than what it may really be. It is known as catastrophizing. Catastrophizing has no cohesive and logical links that makes a person jump to a worst case scenario, which makes them feel like the situation is totally horrible and awful. The magnification of it being worse than it is in reality, causes anxiety, and greater discomfort than it may really be. Someone who catastrophizes jumps to conclusions easily. If it is raining, they may believe a hurricane will be next. If someone gets sick, they may believe there is no hope and the end is near. If the relationship has ended, they may think they will never ever find anyone else.

Their thoughts are not based on any fact, and in actuality, they are intensifying their own aversive feelings. The negative thought processes magnify the situation and can cause them to feel panicky, lead to drinking and drug use, compulsions of all kinds, procrastination, become fearful, worry, and get angry. In some instances, low frustation tolerance may come form people who have experienced trauma. Through their overreaction, they are actually creating more problems for themselves and those around them.

What People with Low Frustration Tolerance Do

Low frustration tolerance poses some major challenges. Because these people detest discomfort, they seek instant gratification, which can cause more stress in the long run. Actions such as addictions, overspending, overeating, unsafe sex, excessively being occupied with tv, and avoiding healthy activities such as exercise, and procrastinating.

People with low frustration tolerance are often complainers, blamers, and negative thinkers. They are usually not very assertive and rarely take responsibility for things that are going on. They do not take a stand to combat the awful feelings they think they will have.

People with low frustration tolerance would benefit from self awareness, developing patience, and learn to understand that they can deal with things, better than they imagine. Their thinking complicates situations and makes them more uncomfortable than what may really be going on.

Low frustration tolerance thrives on inactivity, and the cure is action. Once someone takes action, they can become empowered, and gain strength from battling their mostly imagined fears, and what they believed would be more painful emotions than they really were.

Low frustration tolerance leads to exaggerated thinking, wasted energy on worry, little discipline, and lack of desire to attempt to even believe that the situation could possibly be different than they think. This then leads to feelings of hopelessness, helplessness, and worthlessness. They have little motivation to pursue their dreams and bigger rewards. People with low frustration tolerance are often underachievers, live mediocre or dissatisfied lives, feel bitter, complain, and indulge in self pity. They may not complete tasks and lack awareness of how harmful their thoughts are to their self satisfaction and personal gains they might have otherwise have known.

They do not use logical thinking. It is difficult to change irrational thoughts. Reasoning with a type of person like this does not usually work. Taking action is usually the cure to reduce low frustration tolerance.

People with low frustration tolerance are usually quitters. Any small obstacle is turned into a mountain of obstacles in their mind and they just don’t have the fortitude to battle what they think is insurmountable odds against them achieving. They just don’t have it in them to take on the challenge. They don’t have the inner confidence to try, because their thoughts make the situation so.

But the truth is that you don’t know unless you try. You don’t know what you really can do. You don’t know how much discomfort you really can endure, unless you have done it. You don’t know how bad or good the situation is, unless you put yourself in the middle of it.

Feeling Less Frustrated

Feeling calmer and thinking differently helps to reduce low frustration tolerance.
Feeling calmer and thinking differently helps to reduce low frustration tolerance. | Source

How to Deal With Low Frustration Tolerance

A good way to start to deal with low frustration tolerance is to:

  • start with relaxation exercises.

  • challenge your thoughts about where they are leading you.

  • question what you really might be able to stand and look at what you have gotten through in the past.

  • what reward would be great enough to take on the things you believe you can’t get through. Would it be a million dollars or more? If you could endure for a reward, then you can endure for another motivating reason.

  • ask yourself for proof that your thoughts are realistic.

  • why should you passively absorb your beliefs as facts.

  • ask yourself if you could endure the discomfort you imagine for a few minutes at a time.

  • simplify the steps you need to take so you reduce the overwhelming feelings.

  • imagine the good feelings you will get if you withstand what you thought you could not.

  • what would make the task doable?

Our feelings can never change if we keep doing the things we have previously done. So if low frustration is a problem, and you do one thing different, your feelings are likely to change. When you change your feelings, you will think differently. When you think differently, you will do things differently.

Low frustation tolerance poses many challenges. Through patience, acceptance, and action, things can improve and the beliefs we once held about discomfort and those exaggerated thoughts that stopped us in our tracks can be diminished or even disappear.

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