Who is DBT Suitable For?
DBT was initially designed to treat people with self-harm and suicidal behavior, and then adapted to work with people living with borderline personality disorder. But it has since been adapted for use with many other mental health problems that threaten a person’s safety and emotional well-being.
DBT is a holistic treatment – this means that DBT is the treatment of the whole person, taking into account their whole being, including mental and social factors, rather than just the symptoms of a personality disorder.
DBT is especially beneficial for those who have difficulty managing and regulating their emotions. Some people with BPD, though not all, react more intensely to emotional situations. This is particularly prevalent in interpersonal relationships. As well as experiencing extreme swings in emotions, perceived slights from the other person can be a catalyst for harmful behaviour. Because these people react differently than someone without BPD, the people around them may not understand these emotions. DBT can teach you adequate methods for coping with their intense emotions.
Amanda, one of our service users said:
“Sometimes, I didn’t even recognise the person I became when upset. One minute I was fine, then an offhand comment was made at work, or a text message not answered, and I am suddenly convinced that the other person hates me or wishes I was out of their life. I became angry, irrational and reckless. It was almost like an out of body experience at times, I felt completely out of control of my own feelings and behaviour. When I had DBT, I had to confront and accept these emotions and feelings, and learn how to stop in the moment and get control of my emotions. It wasn’t easy, it still isn’t at times, but it has made all the difference to me.”
To benefit from DBT, the patient needs to be truly involved in their own care, and be willing to reflect on their own experiences and behaviours. This may involve facing some difficult memories or feeling, or reflecting on the affects of trauma, but in the process you will learn how to overcome the difficult feelings which lead to unhealthy behaviours.
Think of it like climbing a mountain – it’s difficult, and it seems like it will never end, you want to quit. But then when you reach the top, it was worth it. That’s DBT – it will be hard, but it will be worth it when you have learned healthy ways to deal with unhealthy emotions and behaviours.
If you have experienced instability in your moods or feelings, impulsive or reckless behaviour, have suffered with self-harm and suicidal thoughts, then DBT will be beneficial for you.
Patients who undergo DBT as a therapeutic treatment for borderline personality disorder have seen improvements such as:
- less frequent self-harm or suicial behaviour
- less severe self-harm
- less anger
- less, or shorter, hospital stays
- improved social abilities
Many people with borderline personality disorders also suffer with secondary conditions, known as ‘co-morbid’ conditions. This includes things like substance misuse, depression, anxiety or panic disorders. DBT may also help with these things, where emotional dysregulation is a factor, but isn’t suitable for those conditions on their own.
The multi-stage approach of DBT provides a structured therapy, a framework for you to work through your BPD symptoms, helping you to manage your symptoms and emotions well, and live a full life in recovery.