Defining distress tolerance in a structural model of Big Five personality domains

Maria Martin Lopez, Kristin Naragon-Gainey, Christopher C. Conway

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: Distress tolerance (DT)—willingness to face internal discomforts—has a fuzzy boundary with neuroticism (low emotional stability), raising questions about its independent role in models of personality and mental health. Method: We investigated DT's overlap with neuroticism and other Big Five factors in a structural model of personality and personality disorder features in samples of university students (N = 1025), emotional disorder patients (N = 225), and substance-use patients (N = 210). Results: In exploratory factor analyses, we found that DT indicators clustered with neuroticism and were essentially unrelated to other Big Five domains. Big Five personality dimensions collectively explained approximately 40%–70% of variation in DT, across different samples and methods of quantifying shared variance. Conclusions: We conclude that DT and neuroticism are near neighbors in empirical space and speculate that much of the observed correlation between DT and mental health outcomes in the literature may be carried by shared neuroticism variance. We suggest that clearer distinctions between the two constructs in empirical research could improve our understanding of DT's unique role in the development and treatment of psychopathology.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Personality
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 3 Jun 2024


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