What Type of Disorders Can DBT Treat?

What Type of Disorders Can DBT Treat?

According to the Linehan Institute, Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) is primarily used to treat suicidal individuals who struggle with borderline personality disorder. Recent research shows that DBT also addresses substance abuse, posttraumatic stress disorder, eating disorders and depression.

What Is Dialectical Behavior Therapy?

  • DBT is made up of two key characteristics: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and a focus on patients with multiple issues. The National Registry of Evidence-Based Programs and Practices divides DBT into the following five components:Training patients to utilize their skillsEnhancing motivation through individual treatment plansTherapists meet patients outside clinical settings for homework and family treatment
  • Structuring environments by reinforcing adaptive behaviors
  • Maximizing capability through therapy

DBT balances behavioral changes with problem solving, and it teaches patients to regulate their emotions through validation and acceptance.

The History of DBT

DBT was developed by Marsha Linehan, a Professor of Psychology at the University of Washington. She designed her work specifically for people who harm themselves or who struggle with thoughts of suicide. She defined DBT as a modification of behavioral therapy that includes mindfulness and acceptance to teach people how to love themselves. Self-love and acceptance help people believe they deserve to get better and to live without self-loathing.

Professor Linehan used her personal experience of self-transformation in 1967 as the basis for DBT. In a 2011 interview with The New York Times, Dr. Linehan relates the moment she realized she loved herself as she prayed in a Catholic church.

“One night I was kneeling in there, looking up at the cross, and the whole place became gold- and suddenly I felt something coming toward me…It was this shimmering experience, and I just ran back to my room and said, ‘I love myself.’ It was the first time I remembered talking to myself in first person. I felt transformed.”

Dr. Linehan used the term “radical acceptance” to define the experience. By incorporating this powerful self love into CBT, she changed the harmful behaviors of her patients.

Uses of DBT

DBT originally helped patients with borderline personality disorder to overcome thoughts of suicide, and the treatment is considered the gold standard in these cases. However, recent research shows the treatment is used for other mental illnesses and destructive behaviors: DBT is now used to treat substance abuse, eating disorders, posttraumatic stress disorder, self harm and drug addicts with a mental health disorder. It is effective in many situations due to its balance between changing behaviors and teaching patients to love themselves (mindfulness and acceptance).

DBT works by teaching patients to control their moods and behavior. At the same time, patients are encouraged to change negative thoughts into positive ones to stabilize their mood. By improving emotional control and decreasing negative self-talk, patients can have more normal relationships.

The American Psychiatric Association endorses DBT for people with borderline personality disorder combined with suicidal thoughts. DBT patients experience fewer and weaker suicidal thoughts and behaviors; they also spend less time in hospitals, have less anger and see more social functioning.

Signs of Mental Illness and Addiction

If you know the signs of mental illness and addiction, then you can help as soon as you recognize them. DBT can change an addict’s life, because drug addiction is often a symptom of mental illness, and a personal or family history of mental illness can increase your risk of drug abuse. If you or a loved one struggles with mental illness and substance abuse, he may exude the following signs:

  • Needing more of the drug before the next dose is due
  • “Doctor shopping” to get new prescriptions
  • Becoming preoccupied with getting and using drugs
  • Needing a supply of your drug to be available at all times
  • Changes in physical appearance, especially in personal hygiene
  • Withdrawing from friends and loved ones

Mood swings and emotional outburstsThese symptoms can all indicate a problem with drugs, so reach out for help to begin recovery.

Find Help for Addiction and Mental Illness

Mental illness and addiction often go hand in hand, but DBT can be an important part of treating a Dual Diagnosis. If you or a loved one struggles with mental illness and addiction, we are here for you—call our toll-free, 24 hour helpline to speak to an admissions coordinator about treatment options.