Low Frustration Tolerance: Definition & Examples

Millicent Kelly

Millicent has been teaching at the university level since 2004. She holds a Bachelor's degree in Criminal Justice and a Master's degree in Human Resources.

Expert Contributor
Lesley Chapel

Lesley has taught American and World History at the university level for the past seven years. She has a Master's degree in History.

This lesson will provide a definition of low frustration tolerance by, in part, contrasting it with high frustration tolerance. Rational versus irrational beliefs will be reviewed, and examples of low frustration tolerance will be provided.

Frustration Tolerance

Twelve-year-old Sam is a whiz with video games. He wins most of the games he plays against others and thrives on competition. There is just one problem: when Sam doesn't win, his reactions are extreme and violent. He's thrown his game controllers into walls, damaged game discs, and screamed profanities at his parents.

Low Frustration Tolerance

Sam's behavior when he doesn't win is exaggerated and irrational. He is also an example of someone who suffers from low frustration tolerance. Low frustration tolerance is rooted in the personal formation of irrational beliefs. A person who has a low frustration tolerance, like Sam, typically displays the following behavioral indicators:

  • focusing on present and immediate gratification rather than on future goals
  • feeling sorry for themselves while neglecting the feelings of others
  • seeking out easy rather than difficult challenges
  • showing impatience
  • engaging in awfulizing matters, or making things worse than they are
  • angering easily

A person with low frustration tolerance often holds a wide variety of irrational beliefs. These are beliefs that are greatly exaggerated and don't make sense when objectively viewing a situation. Some examples of statements made by individuals with low frustration tolerance might include:

If I don't win this game, I will always feel like a failure for the rest of my life.

If I don't get the ice cream I want, I never want to come to this city again.

If my mother asks me to make my bed one more time, I'm going to explode.

If that guy cuts me off in traffic again, I will leave my car and punch him.

High Frustration Tolerance

In contrast to people who have low frustration tolerance, individuals with high frustration tolerance hold rational beliefs. They may not like the current situation that they find themselves in, but they recognize that the situation is temporary and will eventually resolve itself. Unlike someone with low frustration tolerance that wants immediate gratification, a person with high frustration tolerance might admit they would like immediate gratification, but recognizes it won't be the end of the world for them if they don't receive it. In other words, they can manage the situation.

Individuals with high frustration tolerance are more in touch with their feelings, display patience, and have a long-term rather than immediate focus on events and situations.

Strategies for Overcoming Low Frustration Tolerance

It is important that individuals who have a low tolerance for frustration engage in some strategies designed to help increase frustration tolerance. In order to learn how to deal with frustration in a more positive way, the following ideas may help:

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Additional Activities

Prompts About Low Frustration Tolerance:

Essay Prompt 1:

Write an essay of one paragraph that defines low frustration tolerance and explains the role of irrational beliefs in low frustration tolerance.

Tip: Be sure to define irrational beliefs as well!

Essay Prompt 2:

Write 1–2 pages explaining the strategies for overcoming low frustration tolerance. Provide examples with each strategy.

Example: If you are angry that your favorite sports team lost, express anger by punching a pillow.

Graphic Organizer Prompt 1:

Make a poster or some other type of graphic organizer that depicts the behavioral indicators of low frustration tolerance.

Example: You could use cartoons to illustrate the behaviors.

Graphic Organizer Prompt 2:

Create a chart or other type of graphic organizer that shows the differences between low frustration tolerance and high frustration tolerance.

Example: You could have two columns, one for low frustration tolerance and one for high frustration tolerance. In the low column, you could list immediate gratification, and in the corresponding high column, you could list focus on long-term goals.

List Prompt:

Make a list of at least five examples of irrational beliefs. It might be helpful to draw on personal experiences you have had with your own irrational beliefs.

Example: If he doesn't ask me out, I'll never find a partner and never get married.

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