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dbt for anxiety management

How Dialectical Behavioral Therapy Helps with Anxiety Management

Millions of Americans suffer from dual diagnosis disorders, such as addiction and anxiety. Many people with anxiety turn to substances to cope. Also, many receive medications for anxiety that can be addictive. Finding anxiety management alternatives to medications, such as dialectical behavioral therapy, can help people stay away from addictive substances.

What is Dialectical Behavioral Therapy?

In the 1980s, therapist Marsha Linehan developed dialectical behavioral therapy or DBT. Since then, it has been effective in helping patients with anxiety, addiction, depression, and more. DBT focuses on mindfulness, interpersonal effectiveness, distress tolerance, and emotional regulation. DBT can be used as a supplement or alternative to replacing benzodiazepines, such as Diazepam, for anxiety treatment.

When Is It Used?

Dialectical behavioral therapy focuses on high-risk, tough-to-treat patients. These patients often have multiple diagnoses. Dialectical behavioral therapy is often used to treat suicidal and other self-destructive behaviors, teaching patients skills to cope with anxiety and ways to change unhealthy behaviors. 

Initially, DBT was designed to treat people with suicidal behavior and people with a borderline personality disorder. However, the American Psychiatric Association says DBT effectiveness in treating borderline personality can also be seen in treating mood disorders, eating disorders, ADHD, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and alcohol and drug abuse. 

How Dialectical Behavioral Therapy Works for Anxiety Management

Today, DBT is an evidence-based psychotherapy approach to treat many conditions, including anxiety. It focuses on different settings with individual goals and techniques. Overall, this form of therapy uses four main strategies or DBT skills training modules to help manage their anxiety or address their behavior. 

Core Mindfulness

One of the most important strategies of DBT is learning how to develop mindfulness skills. To manage your anxiety, learning how to live in the present is paramount. Mindfulness helps people pay attention to what’s happening on the inside (thoughts, feelings, and impulses) as well as tuning into their senses to process what’s happening around them in non-judgmental ways. The strategy can also help you stay calm and avoid engaging in automatic negative thought patterns and impulsive behavior.

Distress Tolerance

For those struggling with addiction or recovering from substance abuse, distress tolerance techniques are vital. Here, you’ll learn how to accept yourself and your current situation. Distress tolerance techniques help you find ways to handle a crisis, such as self-soothing techniques, finding distractions, and how to improve the moment. The idea is to help patients learn how to focus on the long-term outlook. 

Interpersonal Effectiveness

It can be challenging, particularly for recovering addicts, to say “no,” while remaining positive and healthy. Interpersonal effectiveness helps patients understand the different ways they can communicate effectively. But most importantly, they learn how to respect themselves, how to manage difficult people, and how to respect others. 

Emotion Regulation

Perhaps the most critical aspect of DBT is emotional regulation training. Learning emotional regulation helps patients navigate their feelings more effectively. When people can properly label their emotions, it’s easier to reduce their emotional vulnerability and help them have more positive experiences overall. 

What to Expect from Treatment

A unique aspect of this type of therapy is that it focuses on accepting the patient’s experience as a way for the therapist to reassure them of the need to change negative behaviors. Most DBT treatment plans focus on four sections:

  • Individual therapy: a trained therapist works with patients on their behavioral skills and teaches them the right techniques to cope with their unique challenges. 
  • Group skills training: patients start practicing their behavioral skills through homework assignments and role-playing in group settings.
  • Phone coaching: patients can often call their therapists in between sessions to receive guidance on coping with a crisis or a challenging situation. 

Other Anxiety Management Techniques

Everyone struggles with anxiety at some level. However, when anxiety becomes chronic, learning different management techniques is paramount to focus on your mental health. 

Unless your doctor prescribes anxiety medications, you can try to manage your symptoms with a few activities that encourage relaxation and calm stress levels. Practicing these activities daily can prevent anxiety triggers.

  • Journaling
  • Meditation
  • Prayer
  • Deep breathing
  • Exercise
  • Yoga
  • Self-care 
  • Spending time outdoors
  • Spending time with pets

In addition to these long-term activities, it’s also essential to learn lifestyle habits that can help you control your stress and anxiety. Some of these healthy habits include:

  • Keeping yourself distracted with activities that you enjoy
  • Maintaining a strict eating and sleeping schedule
  • Practicing mindfulness and gratefulness every day
  • Setting up an exercise routine for at least 30 minutes of movement a day
  • Not being afraid to ask for help when you feel overwhelmed

Where to Find a DBT Therapist

Believe it or not, anxiety management is a considerable part of substance use disorder treatment. Because many recovering addicts struggle with co-occurring disorders, such as generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), drug rehab centers often bring dialectical behavior therapists as part of their integrative treatment programs. 

Other essential elements of recovery are having healthy relationships, learning to change thinking and behavior, and coping with painful emotions. DBT addresses all of this, and it’s also a vital part of any quality addiction treatment program.

It’s vital to find therapists that specialize in multiple therapeutic approaches. As you know, not everyone will respond to DBT the4 same way. Some people might respond better to other forms of treatment, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT).

Also, some people might need different approaches throughout the treatment. Finding a treatment center that offers diverse and multi-disciplinary approaches is the best way to focus on your wellbeing and recovery. 

Getting Help for Co-occurring Disorders

Someone with dual diagnoses has both a mental health disorder and an alcohol or drug abuse problem. About half of people who have a mental illness will struggle with substance use disorders at some point in their lives and vice versa. 

Over 9 million people in the United States live with a co-occurring disease, yet only 7.5 percent of people enroll in treatment programs. Mental health disorders are the most common cause of disability, with at least 1 in 17 Americans struggling with at least one condition. 

At Lighthouse Recovery Institute, our comprehensive treatment programs incorporate dialectical behavioral therapy to support our patients with every aspect of their struggles. As a result, the programs we offer include individual therapy with providers trained in treating mental illness, in addition to group therapy, medication management, holistic services, and family therapy. 

To live a healthy, happy life free of the symptoms of mental illness and addiction, finding quality dual diagnosis care is the first step. If you are ready to begin your journey of recovery, please reach out today.

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