Modify Your Distress Intolerant Beliefs

Distressing emotions have very negative connotations associated with them. Some people believe it is unacceptable or weak to be emotional or feel distressed, and they cannot stand such strong feelings. They think it is wrong to be emotional—which, in itself, is a very unhealthy mindset and can lead to even more distress.

If you’ve wondered how do you deal with distress intolerance? Here are some practical ways to manage distressing situations and regulate your emotions.

Symptoms of Distress Intolerance: Identifying and Modifying Distress Intolerant Beliefs

Distress intolerance is defined as an inability to tolerate or manage distressing emotions, thoughts, or situations. This can manifest as high levels of fear, anxiety, frustration, or anger, and lead to escape, avoidance, or other maladaptive behaviors, like distress beliefs.

What is a distress belief? It is a negative or maladaptive belief you may hold about the world, or yourself, which can contribute to even more distressing emotions. They are often irrational, can be conscious or unconscious, and risk causing cognitive impairment.

To identify whether you tend to harbor distress intolerant beliefs, you must understand the symptoms of the same:

  • Panic attacks
  • Self harm
  • Substance abuse
  • Suicidal ideation
  • Chronic stress
  • Anxiety 
  • Insomnia
  • Depression 

If you experience these symptoms or feel your reactions to a distressing situation trigger such behaviors or feelings, you may need to address and modify your distress intolerance. 

Modifying Distress Intolerance

Modifying your distress intolerance is the first step towards inculcating distress tolerance. To do so, you can ask yourself a few questions when you experience a distressing situation, thought, or emotion:

  • What will happen as a result of this?
  • What will I need to do?
  • What will it mean to me?
  • What will it be like?
  • Is it true that I cannot cope with distress? Is there any actual evidence that proves it?

This will help you realize that a distressing situation is manageable and not as extreme as you may believe.

You can also think about how experiencing emotional distress can be beneficial. Additionally, purposely exposing yourself to certain stimuli can help you practice tolerance and regulation. Soon, managing your reactions to distressing things will improve distress tolerance.

What Are Distress Tolerance Beliefs?

Distress tolerance includes positive beliefs or attitudes as you trust your ability to manage stressful situations. Improving distress tolerance can be extremely helpful as it will prevent an experience from becoming overwhelming or leading to maladaptive behaviors.

Building distress tolerant beliefs can also be an important part of treatment for various mental health conditions, including anxiety disorders, depression, and substance use disorders.

Improving Your Distress Tolerance: Mantras To Help 

Improving distress tolerance can be achieved through practice, patience, and perseverance

Here are some mantras to help you be more tolerant of distress:

  • All feelings are a part of the human experience, and emotions exist on a spectrum. There are no “bad” emotions.
  • If you stopped feeling negative emotions, the positive emotions would lose their meaning.
  • Distress can be uncomfortable, but instead of trying to escape, you will deal with it because you know you can do it.

As distressing as the present may be, remind yourself that it will soon pass. You will slowly notice your tolerance of distress going up. 

Virtue Map can also help you with distress tolerance.


To break the vicious cycle of feeling even more upset and distressed when you’re already feeling “negative” emotions, you must first identify and then modify your distress intolerant beliefs.

Giving yourself empathy, compassion, and the freedom to be tolerant of distressing emotions can reduce their adverse impact on your emotional well-being and productivity.

Now that you know what distress tolerance is, you can change your perspective on how you approach and cope with distressing emotions and slowly improve your quality of life.

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