Part of what makes humanity so great is our ability to feel. Humans need to feel a variety of emotions, both subjectively pleasant and unpleasant, to survive. Fear, grief, and anger are just as important to survival as happiness, love, and excitement.

Despite their importance, some people have a difficult time dealing with the feelings on the unpleasant end of the spectrum. The inability to fully experience unpleasant or uncomfortable emotions, and the desperate need to escape from those emotions, is called distress intolerance.


1. Causes

Distress intolerance develops through a combination of biological and environmental factors. Some people, like those classified as highly sensitive, are simply born with a higher sensitivity to all emotions. Others develop distress intolerance through environmental feedback, like punishment for experiencing an emotion that society labels as negative, such as having an angry outburst or crying when they felt sadness.

Environmental feedback, sad child, punishment evgenyatamanenko / Getty Images


This site offers information designed for educational purposes only. You should not rely on any information on this site as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, treatment, or as a substitute for, professional counseling care, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any concerns or questions about your health, you should always consult with a physician or other healthcare professional.