Why DBT is a Popular Borderline Personality Disorder Treatment Option

Understanding the origins of dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) and how it works can help you see why it’s such a popular treatment for people living with borderline personality disorder. By laying down the foundations of recovery, this therapy can help you find beauty through stability by teaching you how to take control of your emotions.

Feeling and expressing emotions is necessary for everybody. And, during certain moments or periods in any person’s life, emotions can become turbulent and even difficult to manage. But if you’re struggling with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), then these turbulent moments become regular occurrences in a vicious cycle that never seems to end.

It’s a scary feeling—while most of us have the comfort of knowing that during the toughest times, we’ll eventually stabilize and return to a positive mindset, struggling with BPD leaves you feeling as if there is no end in sight. You feel as if you are at the mercy of your negative emotions. And if the people around you don’t understand that you’re struggling with a mental health disorder, their reactions to your behaviors can quickly make you feel isolated and misunderstood.

But with residential treatment that includes Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), you can learn to accept the nature of your emotions and better manage them. There is nothing wrong with the way that you’re feeling—you simply need to find healthy ways to cope with how your brain processes emotions.

The Origins of Dialectical Behavior Therapy

Back at the end of the 1980s, DBT was founded with the purpose of helping people with BPD. Although it’s since been used for other kinds of mental health challenges, such as depression, its effectiveness for treating those with BPD has made it a cornerstone of treatment programs for those looking to better manage their emotions.

The belief at the core of DBT theory is that some people experience heightened levels of arousal in situations compared to the average person—especially situations that commonly arise in friendships, family, and romantic relationships. Once aroused, these people take longer to return to their baseline level of arousal. In other words, the feeling of being on an emotional rollercoaster that you can probably relate to is rooted in the way that your brain responds to situations that generate emotional arousal.

Foundations of Recovery

So how can DBT help? There are three key components of this treatment modality that form the foundation of recovery programs:

  • Cognitive therapy. DBT is based on the components of Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT), so you can expect a similar focus on identifying the thoughts and beliefs that guide your emotions (whether you realize it or not). In particular, you’re going to focus on negative assumptions, such as “I always overreact and get angry.” Once you’ve identified these types of thoughts, the idea is to learn how to replace them with more positive and realistic ones, such as, “Anger is a natural human emotion, I just process it differently,” and “I will learn to cope with my emotions in a different way.”
  • Personal support. It’s important to learn how to identify the strengths in your personality and build on them so that you can foster positivity in your life. This process of self-validation can lead to the introduction of new healthy habits like meditation, yoga, and taking up a hobby like pottery.
  • Creating support networks. During treatment, you will foster relationships with other people living with BPD, as well as therapists and psychiatrists that thoroughly understand this mental health challenge. The former is important because they will help you feel less isolated and alone during your path to recovery. Professional supports can also decrease feelings of isolation, but they will focus more on helping you learn to the tools and coping strategies needed to manage your fluctuating emotions. These include roleplaying ways of interacting with other people, learning to live with distressing emotions, and practicing techniques to de-escalate your arousal levels.

As tough as living with BPD can be, if you don’t learn how to tolerate and manage your emotions, they can become a roadblock that prevents you from living your life to its fullest. By using DBT, you can come to better understand how your brain processes emotions and manage them better. Remember: with the right mindset, all of the negative emotions that you are feeling can be turned into positive ones.

As Alicia Raimundo, who lives with BPD, says, “I feel everything, all the time. It’s exhausting. But it also makes me passionate, which is beautiful.”

Begin Your Recovery Journey.


Finding Beauty Through Stability with DBT

Right now, you’re world likely feels more than a little unstable. You’re either calm or on the verge of becoming completely overwhelmed by your emotions. But in a comprehensive residential treatment program, you will learn to accept the way that your brain processes the world feelings within it and take control of it. Through this control and stability, you will learn to find the beauty in your life that you’ve been missing out on.

Bridges to Recovery offers comprehensive treatment for people struggling with mental health disorders as well as co-occurring substance use disorders. Contact us to learn more about our renowned Los Angeles and San Diego-based programs and how we can help you or your loved one start on the path to lasting wellness.


Lead Image Source: Unsplash user Warren Wong