When it comes to Jenn Veilleux’s research, you might want to hold your breath. That’s because if you are a participant in one of Jenn’s research studies you might be tested on this feat. Breath-holding is a test used to examine distress tolerance – one’s ability to withstand uncomfortable negative emotions or physical sensations. Distress tolerance is a factor for many different types of psychopathology, so understanding its mechanisms is important for mental health clinicians.
However, distress tolerance can vary widely in one’s daily experience. And, studying the factor dynamically would be ideal for clinicians hoping to understand the construct. Unfortunately, there weren’t any studies – or even measures – to study distress tolerance dynamically. So, Jenn decided to create a measure with her graduate students which asks people how capable they feel of “sitting with” or withstanding the distress they encounter in daily life.
Jenn and her students used the LifeData platform to deliver her measures to participants. After comparing lab results to her measure, she found that her measure was reliable. Importantly, though, this measure showed that people vary in the amount of distress tolerance they report over time and across contexts.
Because of Jenn’s work, researchers and clinicians now have a brief reliable measure for studying distress tolerance dynamically and can better understand the underpinnings of an important construct.