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When is your distress harder to tolerate? A qualitative analysis of situations in which distress tolerance is impaired and strengthened (Pages 85-91)

Journal of Contextual Behavioral Science (JCBS)

Volume 23, January 2022, Pages 85-91


Jennifer C.Veilleux, Katherine C.Hyde, Jeremy B.Clift


Although distress tolerance is usually studied as a trait, people also vary in their momentary distress tolerance over time and across contexts. In the current study, we evaluated perceptions of distress tolerance changeability (n = 317) and qualitatively coded narrative responses to questions asking about contexts in which distress tolerance is impaired as well as strengthened.

We found that 82% of people believe that their distress tolerance changes over time. Qualitative analyses revealed that people believe their distress tolerance is impaired under stress, when in a negative mood, when lacking in social support, or when physically drained (i.e., hungry, tired, sick). Similarly, people reported greater distress tolerance when in a positive mood, when feeling supported or with others, when experiencing fewer obligations or recent life successes, and when feeling clear-headed. Results provide avenues for the future study of distress tolerance changeability and confirm the utility of considering distress tolerance as a state, not just a trait.

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