One may imagine that having a very high distress tolerance is a great thing. However, psychologists believe that some level of intolerance is needed to motivate us to solve our problems.
Having said that, not many people have to worry about being too chill because having an extremely low distress tolerance is much more common and much more uncomfortable.
The test below can help estimate your distress tolerance level and is provided for educational purposes only. If you think you aren’t good at dealing with life’s challenges, look for professional advice. Check all that apply.
When something is bothering me, I have to solve it immediately.
When I am upset, I can only think about the upsetting issue.
I am terrible at tolerating uncertainty; I feel like I need to know the answers.
I tend to overprepare to avoid any potential problems (e.g., travel, work, presentations, social activities).
I don’t know how other people can function despite having unresolved issues; I would love to be able to do that too.
Being distressed makes me feel like I am about to lose control.
I know that my emotions during some distressing situations are clearly exaggerated, but I can’t do anything about it.
Whenever I feel an unpleasant emotion, I try to suppress it or distract myself from it.
I do my best to avoid feeling any negative emotions by avoiding any situation, person, place, or activity that could bring on distress.
I feel so embarrassed about my reactions, but I can’t do anything about it.
I think other people manage their negative emotions much better than I do.
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When distressed, I automatically look for ways to relieve the feeling, even if they are counterproductive. For example, I might call people who don’t want to talk to me, try to force someone to discuss things with me before they are ready, or fake sick to skip work or school.
I go out of my way to prevent feeling any distress whenever possible.
One of my biggest fears is that the feeling of distress will never go away.
If you find yourself agreeing with a few or more of the statements above, you may have a low distress tolerance.
Generally, there are three levels of distress tolerance.
Low distress tolerance
People with a low distress tolerance experience negative emotions more intensely than others, and the experience of distress may last for a longer time. There could be many different reasons for that, including the way they were brought up and their unique biology.
Unfortunately, a low distress tolerance may lead to unproductive or even harmful behaviors, such as escapism, substance abuse, eating disorders, excessive sleep, self-harm, and other behaviors. These behaviors can cause additional problems, and, in some cases, the initial distress may worsen because you haven’t allowed your emotions to run their natural course.
An experienced mental health professional can help you learn to manage your emotions and cope with distress and uncertainty.
Average distress tolerance
Most people belong here. Hardly anyone enjoys being distressed, people with an average distress tolerance included, but when unpleasant feelings come, they simply ride it out, waiting patiently until the wave passes. They know that feeling negative emotions is part of life, but if they wait long enough, their distress will ease and eventually disappear.
High distress tolerance
Negative emotions may sometimes be helpful in dangerous situations by motivating us to remove ourselves from danger or defend ourselves. They may also motivate us to demand a certain level of respect and not to allow mistreatment.
Some people with an extremely high distress tolerance in some cases may allow bad people in their lives, or they may be unnecessarily tolerant of bad situations.