stressed woman with hair covering her face holding cell phone on couch - frustration in recoveryFrustration is a natural emotional response to challenges or setbacks that prevent a person from achieving their goals or desires. However, frustration can put your recovery at risk if it’s not managed appropriately.

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Identifying Low Frustration Tolerance

Low frustration tolerance (LFT) is a concept developed by psychologist Albert Ellis. It is associated with rational emotive behavior therapy (REBT), a framework that states all people have both rational (constructive) and irrational (self-defeating or unhelpful) tendencies and leanings. REBT is the basis of the SMART Recovery peer support program for people seeking abstinence from addictive substances.

You may have a low frustration tolerance if you agree with the majority of the following statements:

  • When a task is boring or difficult, I will postpone it for as long as possible.
  • Everyday stressors like heavy traffic or long lines at a restaurant make me irritable and angry.
  • I will try to “fix” a situation due to my own impatience instead of waiting for the problem to resolve itself.
  • I avoid tasks that cause me distress.
  • If a task is challenging, I often give up instead of trying a new approach.
  • I often find myself seeking immediate gratification.
  • When I feel frustrated, I lash out and become angry at those around me.
  • If I’m frustrated, I don’t want to listen to what other people have to say.

A low frustration tolerance is common among people with substance use disorders, as well as those who have been diagnosed with depression, anxiety, or ADHD.

Why Low Frustration Tolerance Is a Problem in Recovery

Having a low frustration tolerance can affect your life in many different ways, but it can put your recovery at risk by making you want to give up when things don’t go as planned in your recovery journey. Some common sources of frustration in recovery include:

  • Friends and family you’ve hurt with your past addiction-related behaviors might not be willing to forgive you right away.
  • You might need to deal with legal charges related to drug or alcohol use.
  • Getting your finances back in order or putting your career back on track can take patience.
  • Your cravings can be difficult to manage.
  • You might be uncomfortable when others ask about your recovery progress.
  • You might have a relapse and find that you need to adjust your treatment plan to get back on track.

There’s always hope for recovery, but having a low frustration tolerance can make it difficult for you to acknowledge that the challenges you’re facing are only temporary setbacks on the road to self-improvement.

How to Increase Your Frustration Tolerance

The good news is that a person’s frustration tolerance can be improved over time. Here are some tips that can help:

  • Practice tolerating frustration in a safe environment. Tasks that are mildly frustrating, such as putting together a puzzle with many pieces, can help you learn to stay calm and persevere without losing your temper. This will help you build your confidence, so you’re better able to handle real-world challenges.
  • Create realistic expectations. People with a low frustration tolerance often get trapped in negative thought patterns. Instead of asking “Why me?” or complaining that “This is horrible!” remind yourself that life is sometimes unfair. If there are steps you can take to improve your circumstances, make a plan to do so. When a situation is outside your control, you need to focus on acceptance.
  • Give yourself a pep talk. Being in recovery is a challenge, but you should be proud of what you’ve already accomplished. You are more resilient than you think, and you have the tools you need to cope with distressing feelings in a healthy way.
  • Calm your body and mind. Deep breathing or meditation can be an effective way to manage the racing heart rate, rapid breathing, and muscle tension that often accompany feelings of frustration. Experiment with different approaches to see what works for you, then remember to put these strategies to work before you become completely overwhelmed.

The SMART Recovery website offers some additional tips for coping with a low frustration tolerance.

Get the Support You Need to Keep Your Recovery on Track

At Mountain Laurel Recovery Center, we’re committed to providing you with the resources and support you need to build a life free from the burden of addiction. Clients at our Pennsylvania residential addiction treatment center learn how to manage frustration and other negative emotions in individual, group, and family therapy. We also provide a wide range of continuing care services to support the transition back to independent living. Let us help you face the future with confidence!

Considering a Pennsylvania addiction treatment center? If you or a loved one are in need of help from addiction, please contact us today.
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