Published On By Rachel Nall

DBT For Anxiety

Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) is a part of psychotherapy that is focused on enhancing emotional regulation and mindfulness skills.

Anxiety is a chronic pattern that could be debilitating. DBT techniques may assist in recognizing anxiety triggers and symptom management.

This therapy model was initially designed for borderline personality disorder but is now a widely used modality for treating anxiety and depression.

DBT integrates acceptance and adaptive changes, ultimately helping you live productively and meaningfully with anxiety.

Does DBT improve your prosocial decision making power? Learn how DBT could help reduce your anxiety symptoms and make you feel relaxed and navigate through difficult situations.

What Is Anxiety?

Anxiety could manifest as a chronic pattern of distress followed by extreme fear and nervousness that could significantly impair daily functioning and overall wellness.

Most adults suffer from anxiety disorders, impacting about one-third of the total population. Anxiety symptoms include increased heart rate, feelings of dread, sweating, sleep problems, and appetite changes.

Here’s a table to help you visualize these symptoms:

Anxiety Symptoms Physical Manifestations Emotional Impact
Increased heart rate Muscle aches or tension Feelings of dread
Sweating Chest tightness Sense of hypervigilance
Sleep problems Lightheadedness or dizziness Restlessness
Appetite changes Sense of restlessness Panic attacks

What Is DBT?

Developed as a specific modality of talk therapy, Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) integrates cognitive-behavioral techniques and mindfulness practices to help people manage challenging emotions and behaviors.

Combining cognitive-behavioral therapy with mindfulness practices, DBT may help people accept negative thoughts and make positive, behavioral, and socially adaptive choices.

The term ‘dialectical’ in DBT refers to synthesizing opposing concepts, fostering acceptance, and personal empowerment. This therapeutic approach may assist people in understanding their anxious thoughts and developing effective coping strategies.

Best DBT Techniques To Reduce Anxiety

  1. Mindfulness

    Mindfulness is a core part of Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT). It involves being fully present in the current experience without judgment.

    This practice allows people to follow their thoughts and feelings without becoming overwhelmed, leading to a greater sense of control over anxiety triggers.

    In DBT, mindfulness techniques like ‘Wise Mind’ encourage a balanced state of rational and emotional thinking, fostering a sense of calm and clarity.

    Grounding themselves in the present moment could help people break free from the cycle of catastrophic thinking that often characterizes anxiety. Mindfulness might cultivate gratitude and purpose, shifting focus away from future uncertainties.

  2. Distress Tolerance

    Distress tolerance includes managing negative emotions, which is essential for handling overwhelming situations without resorting to harmful coping mechanisms.

    Here are some key strategies used in DBT to enhance distress tolerance:

    • TIPP (tip the temperature, intense exercise, paced breathing, paired muscle relaxation): Physical interventions that can rapidly reduce extreme anxiety.
    • Cost-Benefit Analysis: Evaluating the benefits and risks of engaging in specific behaviors.
    • Radical Acceptance: Embracing situations as they are without judgment or resistance.
    • Crisis Survival Strategies: Immediate actions to help people cope during moments of intense distress.
  3. Fluctuating Emotions

    Regulating emotions is a fundamental aspect of managing anxiety effectively in daily life. People with anxiety often struggle to control their fear and worry. Emotional regulation skills are important for identifying, coping, and detaching from intense emotions.

    To help people navigate emotional regulation effectively, Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) introduces various techniques and acronyms:

    • STOP Skill: Involves stopping, taking a break, observing, and proceeding mindfully to interrupt escalating emotions.
    • ABC Please: Focuses on accumulating pleasant emotions through engaging in enjoyable activities, building mastery, and planning coping strategies for anticipated challenges.
    • Opposite Action: Encourages people to respond differently than their automatic emotional reactions, promoting a shift in emotional experiences.
    • Check the Facts: Promotes evaluating the accuracy of one’s thoughts and interpretations of situations that could challenge irrational beliefs contributing to emotional distress.
  4. Interpersonal Effectiveness

    Interpersonal effectiveness focuses on helping people with anxiety understand their triggers and develop new strategies to enhance their connections with others. One of the critical skills taught in DBT’s Interpersonal Effectiveness module is ‘DEAR MAN’ which stands for:

    • Describe the situation.
    • Express your feelings.
    • Assert what you want.
    • Reinforce by rewarding the person for respecting your needs/wants.
    • Mindfulness through staying focused on your goal or boundary.
    • Appear confident and competent.
    • Negotiate by being open to compromise.

Effectiveness Of DBT For Anxiety

Key Points Description
Evidence-based approach DBT is grounded in empirical research and is effective in managing anxiety symptoms through a combination of cognitive-behavioral techniques and mindfulness practices.
Emotion regulation focus DBT emphasizes developing skills to regulate emotions and prevent overwhelming feelings, leading to distress.
Integration with other modalities Therapists may combine DBT with other evidence-based treatments to tailor interventions specifically for people experiencing anxiety disorders.
Tailored cognitive-behavioral interventions DBT techniques are customized to target anxiety-related cognitive distortions and behaviors, helping people learn adaptive ways to cope with their anxiety triggers.
Positive impact on anxiety symptom management Research supports the effectiveness of DBT in reducing anxiety symptoms, enhancing emotional well-being, and promoting adaptive coping strategies.

What Anxiety Disorders Are Treated With DBT?

Therapists trained in DBT might help address various types of anxious symptoms. This makes it a versatile and beneficial treatment option for people seeking to change how they cope with anxiety-related challenges, such as self-harm, substance use, or disordered eating.

Anxiety Disorders Treated with DBT Examples
Generalized Anxiety Disorder Excessive worry and tension about everyday events
Social Anxiety Disorder Fear of social situations and interactions
Panic Disorder Sudden and repeated episodes of intense fear
Separation Anxiety Disorder An intense fear of being separated from the ones you love

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DBT Treatment For Anxiety

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) offers a comprehensive approach to managing anxiety disorders effectively. Here are some key aspects of DBT treatment for anxiety:

  • DBT techniques may help people recognize triggers and cope effectively with anxiety symptoms.
  • DBT promotes mindfulness, acceptance, and effective management of anxiety symptoms.
  • DBT interventions could improve executive function and reduce overall anxiety levels.
  • Radically-Open (RO) DBT is particularly beneficial for people with treatment-resistant anxiety.

Frequently Asked Questions:

  1. Can DBT Be Effective for Anxiety Disorders That Have Not Responded to Other Types of Therapy?
    Yes, Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) differs from other traditional methods like talk therapy. It could help in managing several anxiety disorders and be effective for anxiety disorders resistant to different treatments.
  2. Are There Specific Populations or Demographics That May Benefit More From DBT for Anxiety Treatment?
    DBT might benefit specific populations of senior citizens with emotion dysregulation issues due to changes in physical health or other lifestyle factors.
  3. Are There Any Potential Drawbacks to Using DBT for Anxiety Treatment?
    Potential side effects or drawbacks of using DBT for anxiety treatment are minimal. Some people may find the therapy emotionally challenging at times. However, overall, DBT is well-tolerated, effective, and empowering in managing anxiety.
  4. How Long Does It Typically Take to See Noticeable Improvements in Anxiety Symptoms With DBT Therapy?
    Noticeable improvements in anxiety symptoms with therapy could vary and depend on personal response, consistency in practice, and therapist-client rapport. Progress may start within a few weeks to months, but long-term benefits require ongoing commitment.


Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) is a psychotherapy approach that could help you manage challenging emotions and behaviors. It provides practical strategies to navigate negative thought patterns.

This approach could integrate cognitive-behavioral techniques and mindfulness practices that might assist you in recognizing anxiety triggers and symptom management.

Emotional regulation, Distress tolerance, mindfulness, and interpersonal effectiveness are key skills taught in DBT. It is a versatile therapeutic approach that you could use in personal or group settings, making it easier for you to live with manageable anxiety.

  • The information in this article is for informational purposes only and should not be considered medical advice.
  • It is not recommended to disregard/delay seeking professional medical advice or treatment because of what you read or accessed through this article.
  • The results may vary from individual to individual.
  • It is recommended to consult your doctor for any underlying medical conditions or if you are on any prescribed medicines before trying any tips or strategies.

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