- 1: a deep chronic sense or state of insecurity and dissatisfaction arising from unresolved problems or unfulfilled needs
Frustration is a common emotional response to opposition. Related to anger and disappointment, it arises from the perceived resistance to the fulfillment of individual will. The greater the obstruction, and the greater the will, the more the frustration is likely to be. Causes of frustration may be internal or external. In people, internal frustration may arise from challenges in fulfilling personal goals and desires, instinctual drives and needs, or dealing with perceived deficiencies, such as a lack of confidence or fear of social situations. Conflict can also be an internal source of frustration; when one has competing goals that interfere with one another, it can create cognitive dissonance. External causes of frustration involve conditions outside an individual, such as a blocked road or a difficult task. While coping with frustration, some individuals may engage in passive–aggressive behavior, making it difficult to identify the original cause(s) of their frustration, as the responses are indirect. A more direct, and common response, is a propensity towards aggression.
To the individual experiencing frustration, the emotion is usually attributed to external factors that are beyond his or her control. Although mild frustration due to internal factors (e.g. laziness, lack of effort) is often a positive force (inspiring motivation), it is more often than not a perceived uncontrolled problem that instigates more severe, and perhaps pathological, frustration. An individual suffering from pathological frustration will often feel powerless to change the situation they are in, leading to frustration and, if left uncontrolled, further anger.
Frustration can be a result of blocking motivated behavior. An individual may react in several different ways. He/She may respond with rational problem-solving methods to overcome the barrier. Failing in this, he/she may become frustrated and behave irrationally. An example of blockage of motivational energy would be the case of a worker who wants time off to go fishing but is denied permission by his/her supervisor. Another example would be the executive who wants a promotion but finds he/she lacks certain qualifications. If, in these cases, an appeal to reason does not succeed in reducing the barrier or in developing some reasonable alternative approach, the frustrated individual may resort to less adaptive methods of trying to reach the goal. He/She may, for example, attack the barrier physically, verbally or both.