Normal and Abnormal Personality Correlates of Distress Tolerance

María Martín López, Fordham University


Distress tolerance is the ability to effectively withstand uncomfortable situations. This personality dimension is theorized to protect against a diversity of mental health problems including, but not limited to, mood disturbance, substance dependence, and personality disorders (PDs). Despite a growing line of research on distress tolerance in relation to psychopathology outcomes (perhaps most prominently borderline PD), we still do not know how distress tolerance fits into the broader landscape of personality features that undergird PD. The current study seeks to understand how (or if) distress tolerance aligns with established models of pathological and normal-range personality. Three independent samples at varying risk for psychopathology (combined N = 1,960) were administered self-report measures of personality (Personality Inventory for DSM-5 Brief Form [PID-5-BF]; Big Five Inventory [BFI]) and distress tolerance (Distress Tolerance Scale). Exploratory Structural Equation Modeling (ESEM) was employed to examine to what extent distress tolerance indicators cohered with established higher-order dimensions of personality. We found support for a 4-factor solution wherein all the distress tolerance indicators loaded significantly on a Neuroticism/Negative Affectivity factor. The other “Big Five” personality dimensions emerged as expected but were unrelated to distress tolerance. These data shed light on the interconnections between distress tolerance and the major axes of PD. According to our model, distress tolerance is a near-neighbor of negative affectivity. These results pave the way to understanding how distress tolerance is implicated in PD and related mental health conditions.

Subject Area

Clinical psychology

Recommended Citation

López, María Martín, "Normal and Abnormal Personality Correlates of Distress Tolerance" (2022). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI29166236.