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4 Ways DBT Helps with Managing Anxiety Disorders

When you are anxious, it’s more than a feeling.

Your mind goes from being calm, rational, and present to a completely different state. In mild forms, you might be agitated and wanting to use a ritual to soothe yourself.

At worst, you feel that you are experiencing impending doom. That you are in danger and your well-being is at risk.

Regardless of how anxiety affects your life, in the end it does affect your life!

So what to do about it?

Dialectical behavioral therapy, or DBT, might be the answer. Here are four ways in which DVT helps with managing anxiety disorders.

1. Managing Anxiety with Mindfulness

DBT Helps with Managing Anxiety DisordersDBT uses mindfulness skills to help people better manage their anxiety. Mindfulness can include meditation, but it’s not limited to that at all.

One area of mindfulness that is useful with anxiety is how you direct your attention. When you are anxious, your attention becomes locked on the source of that anxiety. This is whatever is the trigger which gets your anxiety rolling.

Anxiety also causes your head to spin with all the negative thoughts associated with that trigger. Instead, mindfulness teaches us how to be more present so as not to hyper-focus or catastrophe. That can help you stay grounded when you do experience anxiety. Mindfulness with DBT for panic attacks, anxious thoughts and other symptoms of anxiety can help you find calm in moments that would otherwise cause you to panic.

2. Practicing Emotional Regulation

Another way that DBT is useful for managing anxiety is by practicing emotional regulation. This involves more than simply staying calm. Rather, it’s both a proactive and reactive process. For instance:

  • Being proactive by practicing healthy lifestyle choices that allow for greater emotional regulation. These include getting enough sleep, exercising regularly, and having a healthy diet.
  • When anxiety arises, being reactive through opposite action. When you feel anxious, instead of doing things that reinforce anxiety, doing the exact opposite. For instance, if social situations stress you out, choosing to attend that party or gathering.

3. Using Distress Tolerance

One of the biggest problems with anxiety is the impact of runaway emotions. When you feel anxious, it might not be significant at first. Maybe it’s something that causes you to start worrying in the back of your head.

However, those thoughts and feelings compound on each other. They get amplified, and the result is that your anxiety gets worse. Distress tolerance skills help you cope so that your emotions neither get of control nor exacerbate an already stressful situation. Distress tolerance is a skill of DBT for helping prevent panic attacks and other symptoms of anxiety disorders.

Some helpful distress tolerance tools include:

  • Distracting yourself from the source of the anxiety
  • Weighing both pros and cons
  • Using your five senses to self-soothe (such as listening to music)
  • Accepting that you can’t change the situation, but you can decide how to respond to it

Perhaps of all the distress tolerance skills, radical acceptance is the most powerful. It gives us permission to acknowledge that we don’t have control over a certain scenario from occurring, and that’s okay. Rather, it’s more important to focus on how we respond to those situations. In that case, we really do have a lot of power and control.

4. Improving Interpersonal Effectiveness

When you are anxious, it really affects your ability to communicate effectively. That’s a problem, because in that moment you might need something. Yet, you can’t get your message across because of the anxiety.

For instance, you become angry at someone while you are anxious. Instead of blaming them, using “I statements” to focus on yourself. Also, having the ability to set healthy boundaries ahead of time can help with reducing the chance of anxiety from occurring. Or at least minimize its impact if it does.

These four aspects of DBT are very simple yet powerful concepts. To learn how DBT can help you, make an appointment today to discuss anxiety treatment.



Suffolk DBT proudly provides quality dialectical behavior therapy, a form of cognitive behavioral therapy, at their offices in Manhattan and Long Island, New York and online. Their experienced NYC therapists specialize in serving teens, children, adults, and college students struggling with depression, borderline personality disorder, eating disorders, and self-harm. Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) skills and treatment can help you or your kids to manage emotions and work through life’s challenges.

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