Men in waiting room with laptopsPatience is the state of tolerating frustrating or difficult circumstances, and is often conceived of as a personality trait. The quality of patience enables people to frequently bear frustration or difficulties.

What is Patience?
Patience is a common theme in self-help literature, religion, and new age books, but can mean vastly different things to different people. Patience generally means tolerating something unpleasant for a prolonged period of time. For example, a person who waits for a late friend without becoming angry is being patient; a child who waits for Christmas without becoming anxious or upset is also exhibiting patience.

Patience is not just limited to waiting over time, it can also occur in relation to another person’s behavior or a challenging circumstance. A person who is an alcoholic and endures the stress of withdrawal is exhibiting patience, and a parent who does not lose his or her temper with an angry child is being similarly patient.

Patience and Mental Health
Patient people are not free of frustration; rather, they are able to tolerate frustration without feeling extreme negative emotions or exhibiting common signs of frustration. Many people seek help to become more patient, particularly when their lives are extremely stressful or fast-paced. There is some evidence that the distraction-riddled nature of most workplaces can make it more difficult to be patient. Overwhelming demands can also make patience more difficult.

Therapists who attempt to help their clients become more patient may try a number of strategies. Meditation, mindfulness, and reframing frustrated thoughts can all be helpful. People with anxiety often struggle with patience because waiting can make them feel more anxious. When patience difficulties occur with another mental health problem, psychotherapy and in some cases medication may help.

Why are People Patient?

Evolutionary psychologists are increasingly interested in patience, and often frame patience as a form of decision making. Patient people and non-human animals are able to delay a smaller reward for a larger one, and this reward-gratification seems to involve some degree of calculation. Patience has been demonstrated via reward gratification in some apes.


  1. Lokos, A. (2012). Patience: The art of peaceful living. New York, NY: Jeremy P. Tarcher/Penguin, a member of Penguin Group (USA).
  2. Patience. (n.d.). Princeton University. Retrieved from

Last Updated: 08-17-2015

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