Frustration tolerance is generally defined as one’s ability to manage discomfort. If a person has low frustration tolerance, they may be more at risk for developing and maintaining addictive behaviors. This is because substances and other addictive behaviors can be used to “self medicate” or mask feelings of frustration, anxiety, depression and fear. Often, one is engaged in an addictive process in an attempt to escape their own reality.
SMART Recovery highlights “Irrationalities Related to Low Frustration Tolerance,” as outlined in the Albert Ellis Reader.
SMART Recovery Highlights include:
1) Holding a strong insistence on going only for the pleasures of the moment instead of those of the present and future.
2) Obsession with immediate gratifications, whatever the costs. Whining and strongly pitying oneself when one finds it necessary to surrender short – range pleasures for other gains.
3) Striving for ease and comfort rather than for greater satisfactions that require some temporary discomfort.
4) Refusing to work against a harmful addiction because of the immediate discomfort of giving it up.
If you find yourself overreacting to inconveniences, having a short fuse and indulging your impulses to avoid discomfort, you are demonstrating low frustration tolerance.
The first step to building frustration tolerance is to notice how you react to discomfort. Do you become angry? Do you try to make the discomfort go away immediately? Do you lash out at others? Become mindful about your reactions.
The next step is to focus on experiencing the discomfort, rather than attempting to make it go away. You will notice that the discomfort will likely increase at first, but as you “sit with it,” it will slowly disappear.
Build your own confidence in managing discomfort by noting each successful experience you have in the process.
Building your frustration tolerance is a challenge worth facing in your recovery. You may notice that as you build this tolerance, your need for your addiction of choice may diminish. As always, you have your AToN staff here to support your in your journey.
Cassandra Cannon, Ph.D.
Licensed Clinical Psychologist
Clinical Director AToN Center 888-535-1516