Gender Differences in Distress Tolerance Among a Psychiatric Inpatient Sample



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Distress Tolerance (DT), defined as the perceived (i.e., self-report) or actual/behaviorally-indexed (e.g., breath holding (BH)) ability to tolerate negative or aversive emotional or physical states, is associated with various psychiatric disorders. Literature indicates there may be gender differences in the average levels of behavioral and self-reported DT among males and females. No studies to date have specifically examined gender differences in distress tolerance among acute care psychiatric inpatients. We hypothesized that males would have a significantly higher level of behaviorally-indexed (i.e.,BH [in seconds] and Mirror-Tracing Persistence Task [MTPT]) DT. Covariates included total number of psychiatric diagnoses and trauma load (i.e., total number of traumatic event types experienced; Life Events Checklist-Version 5). Participants included 102 trauma-exposed psychiatric inpatients (m_age= 33.9, 44.1% female). Results of analyses of covariance revealed that males demonstrated significantly higher levels of behavioral DT, as indexed by the BH task, in comparison to females (p<.01,n^2=.05). However, there were no significant gender differences in self-reported (i.e.,Distress Tolerance Scale total score) DT or behavioral DT, as measured by MTPT. Findings have significant potential to inform intervention and prevention efforts utilizing DT to improve treatment outcomes.