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Filed Under: Educational
Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) Part 2

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) Part 2

DISCLAIMER: We are not medical professionals. We are here to open up the dialogue for mental health. This blog promotes healing, but it is not a major mental health resource. If you or anyone else you know is struggling we are here to provide you with the proper resources. We know, asking for help can be scary, but we would be happy to point you in the right direction. If you are nervous about reaching out to a crisis hotline and you want to learn more information feel free to reach out to us! We are here for you.

 

To follow up on our last blog post, I would like to share my connection to DBT. First, I would like to give a little background about me. I’m Michelle Lunger, Ride The Wave’s project manager and blog writer. I thought it was important for me to share my story and my connection to DBT because it is mental health awareness month and it is important to open up the dialogue for mental health and mental illness. 


Moreover, in the summer of 2017 I was diagnosed with major depressive disorder (MDD) and generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). Since then I have been in therapy, been to an outpatient program three times, tried multiple medications, and more but I still felt like it wasn’t enough at the time. In the Fall of 2022, I was admitted into an outpatient therapy program because I was struggling with trauma, grief, loss, my mental health, and my thoughts surrounding eating and food. Shortly after being admitted into the program, I had to accept that I had an eating disorder after being officially diagnosed with Binge Eating Disorder (BED). Beforehand, I didn’t know what track would be better- the trauma or ED program. But the psychiatrist that did my evaluation thought that the ED DBT track would be better for me because I was using eating as a way to cope with past and recent traumas. 


There, I learned about DBT and coping skills to learn how to de-escalate my symptoms. DBT has been especially helpful for when I am in crisis mode. It also helped going to different groups (art therapy, self-compassion, grief support, mindfulness, etc.) connecting with people who are going through something similar and remembering that I’m not alone in my journey. Especially with dealing with a depressive episode and trauma, it helped having a routine, a safe place to go to, and continual support. 


Below I will be sharing my favorite DBT skills that were most helpful during my time at the outpatient program. If you are struggling just know that you are not alone. Whether you are going through a tough time, or haven’t seen results with talk therapy and need some direction- I definitely recommend looking into DBT. If you go to therapy already, you can ask your therapist if they specialize in DBT. If not, on psychologytoday.com, you can search for therapists that specialize in DBT or local outpatient programs. You can even learn DBT on your own, but it does take time as there are many skills to learn about. But I definitely recommend at least trying or looking into it! I feel that the skills are especially helpful for anyone who is struggling- regardless of having a mental health condition or not. I hope this helps give you some direction or inspiration! 


To review from our last post, DBT has 4 core skill groups including distress tolerance, mindfulness, emotional regulation, and interpersonal effectiveness. Some of my favorite skills that have been most effective for me during that time fall under the distress tolerance group- so I will be discussing skills under this group specifically. Distress tolerance skills work best when you are in distress, feel like you can’t handle a situation, are in a crisis, survival mode, or feeling like nothing is working to calm you down.


I like doing the “self-soothe” skill when I am feeling super anxious because it brings me back to the present moment. Self-soothe is essentially tuning into your 5 senses- taste, smell, sight, touch, and hear. To do this, you can make a mental or physical list of each thing you experience through your senses. It helps bring you back to reality and grounds you. You can chew some flavorful gum or suck on a mint, you can put on some essential oils in a diffuser, listen to music, pet your animals, or distract yourself with some TV. 


If self-soothe isn’t working for you and you are in panic mode, I definitely suggest trying some TIPP skills first.  TIPP is temperature, intense exercise, paired muscle relaxation, and paced breathing. TIPP helps you change your body chemistry and calms down your body before you work on your mind. It works best when you are experiencing physical sensations. My favorite is temperature. When I am in crisis mode I like to hop in a cold shower or dunk my face in ice water. I know it doesn’t sound pleasant, but it helps shock my body and brings me back to reality. When you dunk your face in cold water and hold your breath for 30 seconds you actually activate your mammalian dive reflex- which is a psychological response that occurs post water submission. It is said that this reflex slows your heart rate down and calms your nervous system. You can read more about the links below:


https://www.mindfulnessmuse.com/dialectical-behavior-therapy/how-to-calm-down-from-extreme-emotions-in-30-seconds

https://www.kindmindpsych.com/using-the-divers-reflex-to-regulate-emotional-intensity/

 

Those are two of my favorite skills in relation to DBT! I could go on and on and explain more of my favorite skills, but I’ll leave it at that for now. If you are interested in learning more DBT skills down the line, stay tuned. Other than that, I recommend looking more into DBT and trying out some of the skills for yourself. And if you have tried it already, comment below some of your favorite skills! Lastly, remember that you are not alone and if you are in crisis mode first, ask for help and try out these skills. These skills are not meant to make your mental health struggles go away, but instead reduce any suffering you may have and improve that specific moment. Stay strong, we are here for you. 

 

If you or anyone you know is struggling check out our resources page to reach out for help.