Your Level of Stress Tolerance May Indicate a Vulnerability to Addiction

Addiction | Lakehouse Recovery Center

Over the years, experts have explored the characteristics of the alcoholic personality, recognizing certain similarities across groups of people who struggled with an addiction to alcohol. For instance, one study found that alcoholics tend to have the following traits:

  • has a low level of frustration tolerance
  • sensitive
  • low self esteem
  • tends to isolate
  • charismatic

How Stress Can Affect Your Addiction

The first item in the list above is an interesting observation by experts. Research has found when facing a life challenge, those who are prone to addiction tend to have more difficulty in managing distress in their life. It’s common that a person turn to drugs and alcohol as a means to cope with emotional or psychological challenges. Particularly, when an individual suffers from mild to severe depression or another type of mental illness, he or she might be more vulnerable to drinking or drug use.

James West, M.D. of the Betty Ford Center wrote that although the traits found in alcoholics might occur in almost anyone, the alcoholic might experience these in a more exaggerated form. Alcoholics tend toward the extremes, wrote Dr. West, in their feelings, their ambitions, and their drive.

Yet, with regard to having a low level of frustration tolerance, another factor is important to consider. And that is what happens to most people as a result of trauma. When a child, teen, or adult experiences trauma, their ability to soothe themselves in times of distress may become impaired.

A child, especially, needs the assistance of a parent to learn how to calm down when faced with overwhelming and challenging emotions – which can come from a traumatic experience.

However, if a person never learns how to calm down either through a parent or on their own, they may be more prone to reach for substances as a way to soothe their emotions, moods, and mental states. The inability to calm yourself down is a common trait of most addicts, not just alcoholics.

Isolation and Sensisitvity can Lead to low Self-Esteem

In fact, because of uncomfortable emotions and the inability to self-soothe, a person might also isolate. They may develop a certain sensitivity to emotions that is stronger than most people. They may also isolate when feelings become too intense. And if a person did in fact experience trauma or neglect in life, they may very easily develop a low self-esteem.

Being emotionally sensitive, isolating, and having a low self esteem are all common traits among alcoholics, as listed above.

And it is for these reasons that a person learns healthy coping tools when in recovery. In recovery, a person might also learn how to manage frustration in order to build their level of frustration tolerance.

Interestingly, research has shown that one way a person widens the window of their frustration tolerance is through positive and healthy relationships. When a person is seen, heard, and understood by others, that deeper connection supports their ability to manage emotions.

If you’re hoping to grow in your recovery, raise your level of frustration tolerance, improve your self-esteem, and stop isolating, make friends with others. And in turn, you may do the same for them.


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