Can Dialectical Behavioral Therapy Help Anxiety?
Emotions serve an important role in our lives. Primary emotions connected to anxiety, such as fear, can sometimes make sense, especially when we are being threatened. Fear can motivate us to take action to protect ourselves. For example, you are walking a down a dark alley, and you hear and see a man running after you. Without thinking, you run fast enough to get to the main street where other people are present. Sometimes, however, emotions like fear arise when they are not useful or necessary. These emotions can be difficult to handle, leading to distress and anxiety.
Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) helps with treatment for anxiety by confronting tough and difficult emotions, and it can help you dramatically increase your ability to master emotion regulation, that is, your ability to manage the emotions you have. Over time, you will gain an awareness of your emotions and figure out whether to do opposite action or to problem solve what you are feeling. These are skills that you will learn in the Emotion Regulation Module in skills group.
A Typical Anxious Person Coming to Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)
Jessica, a twenty-year-old college student, suffered from panic attacks and anxiety. She was able to reduce her anxiety by avoiding things that would cause her to feel anxious. She described her life as unbearable and often stayed home, as she was “too anxious.”
She would sit in class and had a fear of being called on and giving the wrong answer. She believed that her classmates didn’t like her and could see just how fearful she was. She would skip class, as this gave her instant relief from her anxiety. Often, she would isolate herself, not reaching out to family or friends, as she believed she was “bothering them.” Jessica also tended to panic when she began a new relationship. She would fear that when a boy did not return her text right away that he no longer liked her and that he would never speak to her again. She would often text her friends too much and felt overwhelmed with fears of others leaving her. Jessica was in standard cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) for 3 years. She was referred by her therapist for DBT treatment, as her therapist believed that more intensive treatment would be helpful.
What is DBT, how does it work, and why does it work when other therapies fail?
Dialectical Behavioral Therapy is described as being very different from Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.
DBT was originally developed by Dr. Marsha Linehan in her work with women who had been hospitalized after attempting suicide or who had engaged in serious self-harm. Dr. Linehan was trying to apply CBT, a type of treatment that promotes changing thoughts, feelings, and behaviors in order to cope.
How Does Dialectical Thinking Influence Therapy?
DBT focuses on dialectical thinking. Dialectics refers to a theoretic stance in which two ideas that are outwardly opposed can occur at the same time. One example of this would be if you have anxiety about going to a party. One part of you wants the relief of staying at home in surroundings that create a sense of safety, while the other part really wants to go to the party to be with friends and socialize. Both viewpoints are valid, but which choice would be most effective in the long run? The first choice, staying home, would work in the short term, but going to parties and socializing while using skills will work in the long run. The more you socialize and attend events your anxiety will decrease in both frequency and intensity. Overall, you will have more confidence, which will transform your life.
The Origins of DBT
DBT is a type of CBT. What makes it different is its focus on mindfulness, dialectical thinking, acceptance, and change. DBT places just as much importance on acceptance as it does on change. A DBT therapist flips back and forth between acceptance and change. DBT patients tend to describe the process positively: They don’t feel judged or shamed, they feel accepted, and they understand that the therapist expects some changes to occur.
We Will Teach You Practical Hands-On Solutions
Through the DBT skills training group, clients acquire skills such as mindfulness and distress tolerance, which is being able to accept the present moment with willingness rather than fighting reality. These skills could include breathing, counting your breaths, progressive muscle relaxation, washing your face with cold water, or holding an ice cube. A DBT therapist teaches his or her client how to practice these skills. In other forms of therapy, patients are told to use a coping skill. In DBT, you are told to use mindfulness to do this. The person practices how to observe, describe, participate, one-mindfully, non-judgmentally, and effectively. Your mind most likely will wander to other thoughts; you will return your mind to practicing the skill at hand. This is a series of many skills you will learn in the Mindfulness Module taught in skills group. It is a skill that requires much practice that is why a short mindfulness exercise is how each skills group begins weekly. Exercises like this encourage one to choose to accept what is happening in the moment and also gives you an opportunity to decrease the intensity of your emotions and decrease your urges.
You Will Learn How to Handle Experiencing Anxiety
DBT is made up of numerous parts, including individual therapy with diary cards, weekly skills groups, and phone coaching. All of these parts work together to ensure that DBT offers skills that you can put into practice to make you feel more aware and allow you to develop an ability to handle situations differently. If you are living with an anxiety disorder, you probably know that feeling this way would be extremely valuable and validating.
In Jessica’s case, she applied the emotion-regulation skills, such as opposite action, which facilitated change. She attended outings, college classes, and parties, rather than avoid situations in which she felt afraid. Over time, her anxiety was manageable, as she learned to be a person who “experiences fear.” By decreasing her avoidance, her fear significantly diminished. Mindfulness skills helped her accept the present moment, and she was able to live a more joyful and accepting life.
We Can Help You
Therapists at Suffolk DBT J.L., LCSW offer a warm, supportive, and caring environment. We love what we do and believe in incorporating DBT skills in our own lives. Ultimately, our long-term goal is to make you your own DBT expert. For more help and information, fill out our contact form or call us at (631) 828-2264 today.