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22 August 2008

How Badly Do You Fluctuate?

The other day I was thinking about how difficult it is for some people to handle situations in life. And how there seems to be other people who do a good job at handling whatever comes their way.

I typically fall into the calm and collected group. And while a HUGE part of it is with God's help as a Christ follower, I was also a therapist for quite some time. I read books, helped other people control their moods and ran groups on how to maintain a life of emotional moderation.

The graph shows what extreme mood swings look like (graphical representation of mood swings for the person that is Bipolar).

You can see there are HUGE shifts between depressed moods and manic moods. But what the graph fails to show is the differences in frustration tolerance, or the ability to handle things that are not pleasant.

Frustration Tolerance Example

  • You wake up happy and ready for the day. Then at work you see you have 250 new emails. You understand it's gonna be a long day but you muddle through because you are in a good place. [High Frustration Tolerance]
  • You wake up angry and you aren't feeling well. Then at work you see you have 250 new emails. You flip out and throw something across the room, accidentally hit your boss and get fired. [Low Frustration Tolerance]
Now people can exhibit low and high frustration tolerance even on a normal day (not depressed or manic) but when your mood goes to the extreme, so does your tolerance level.

Depressed people tend to have very low frustration tolerance. Every little thing is a problem and the entire world looks dark and grim. Having to go out of their way at all can be the end of the world. Since their energy level is so low they typically just whine and complain - sinking farther into their depression.

Likewise, manic people are so keyed up and have such little control over their impulses that they too have a hard time controlling their behavior when things don't go their way. Low frustration tolerance often comes out as anger outbursts. These rages are often violent and unprovoked. They go far beyond what would be considered a normal response to the situation.

So how do you fluctuate? Do you live in the extremes or do you try to maintain a healthy balance in the middle of the graph?

If you frequently find yourself fighting to have a more positive attitude or keep from getting worked up over such trivial things, keep this in mind:
One of the best ways to control your frustration tolerance is to control your mood.