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Learn How DBT for Anxiety Works When All Else Fails

Table of Contents

Key Takeaways:

DBT is a method of treatment that is giving the medical community and people with mental illness a great deal of hope. Almost 7 million adults in the United States suffer from generalized anxiety disorder. That’s roughly 3% of the population, yet less than half receive medical help. 

One reason so many sufferers go untreated is that many treatments don’t help much, if at all. Talk therapy is making a difference, and DBT is leading the way. This guide will explain DBT, how it fights anxiety, and how to try it yourself. 

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) is a type of science-based psychotherapy, also called talk therapy, that was created to treat mental illness. It is much like cognitive behavior therapy and was derived from its fundamental properties to teach patients to live in the moment and regulate their emotions with healthy coping mechanisms. 

DBT and Anxiety

Many patients find that DBT is the most effective treatment for anxiety. This is because DBT focuses on four modules of psychological function that help people with anxiety cope with life stressors and manage their feelings. Learn more about these DBT strategies for anxiety below.

The 4 Modules of Focus:


Mindfulness is the most fundamental of the four modules. Mindfulness means being aware of the present – the now – and your place in it. 

It strengthens self-awareness and helps stop constant thoughts and regret of the past and worry for the future. It’s easier to filter out past trauma when a patient is grounded in the present moment.

Distress Tolerance

Fear, anxiety, and panic can be overwhelming. The distress tolerance module teaches patients to deal with intense feelings and not act in a way that may make the situation worse. 

This module shows people how to breathe and move their muscles to avoid panic attacks and increased anxiety. These behaviors are used in place of risky behaviors that had previously been used as coping mechanisms. 

Emotional Regulation

This third module of DBT deals with emotions, both positive and negative. It teaches patients to manage overpowering emotions by understanding them and using tools to reduce their emotional vulnerability and suffering. 

Negative emotions don’t have to be avoided. DBT emotional regulation tools allow people with anxiety to deal with negativity and then let it go. 

Interpersonal Effectiveness

Anxiety often stops people from saying no or standing up for themselves when they need to. This module teaches people with anxiety about others how to deal with their relationships. Interpersonal effectiveness exercises help patients to better deal with such instances when they happen in real life. 

DBT techniques are incredibly beneficial to people suffering from anxiety. They confront the critical issues head-on with exercises created to elicit change. 

How to Try DBT for Anxiety

DBT is an effective strategy for anyone to combat anxiety, but especially for those who have tried other talk therapies to no avail. Unfortunately, therapists qualified to teach this type of psychotherapy might be hard to find, depending on where you live, but you can follow these steps to try DBT for yourself:

1. Understanding the Cost

Check with your insurance agent about the costs of using a psychotherapist or, if you don’t have insurance, check research fees and payment options with individual therapists. Another option is to use a credit card, such as Care Credit, that makes only medical payments. 

2. Get a Referral for a Therapist

Friends, family, doctors, and health insurance agents can all be trusted sources for a therapist referral. Some employers also offer counseling and referral services for their employees. You can also find a therapist through online directories and searches.

3. Assess Your Fears

Think about what issues and concerns you’d like to address before your first appointment. You will work out this later with your therapist, but they will ask you what brings you to them and what’s on your mind during the first appointment.

4. Make Your Appointment

Making a therapist appointment can be scary and difficult for many people. Some people fear the stigma, and others don’t know what to expect. The important thing is to remember that this is the first step to emotional health.

There are many resources that explain how DBT works and how to use the techniques at home. It’s essential to see a DBT therapist, especially if symptoms are severe or the anxiety is chronic. 

The bottom line is that DBT is a valuable and successful treatment for anxiety. 

Getting Help for Anxiety Is Easier Than You Think

Anxiety can be debilitating and strike when you least expect it. DBT is a nonaggressive form of treatment that helps many people who have tried everything else. 

The Counseling Center Group is dedicated to helping you live a life you love. We are committed to providing relatively short-term treatments designed to achieve positive, long-lasting results. 

Our team of therapists uses defined, evidence-based methods to help you reach realistic goals most effectively. We recognize that you need sensible strategies to achieve your desired outcomes, not years of open-ended therapy that simply validates your concerns.

Each member of our team operates with that core value in mind and can work with you one-on-one or in group therapy in an environment that embraces diversity, equity, and inclusion. We take pride in helping individuals, couples, and families make life-enhancing changes and transitions.

The Counseling Center Group can help you discover your authentic self; understand the emotions, thoughts, and actions that keep you stuck in place; and master the tools you need to live a fulfilling life.

Check out our services on our website and give us a call today to learn more about how DBT helps treat anxiety.

Frequently Asked Questions About DBT for Anxiety

DBT is a science-based psychotherapy, similar to CBT, but it focuses on teaching patients to live in the moment and regulate their emotions with healthy coping mechanisms.

DBT is considered the most effective treatment for anxiety because it addresses four modules of psychological function that help people cope with life stressors and manage their feelings: Mindfulness, Distress Tolerance, Emotional Regulation, and Interpersonal Effectiveness.

Many anxiety treatments may not be effective for everyone, leading to untreated anxiety, possibly due to individual differences and the complexity of anxiety disorders.

Mindfulness in DBT involves being aware of the present moment and one’s place in it, which can help ground patients, reduce constant thoughts about the past or worries about the future, and filter out past trauma.

The Distress Tolerance module teaches patients how to deal with intense feelings, fear, anxiety, and panic without engaging in behaviors that may worsen the situation.

The Emotional Regulation module helps patients manage overpowering emotions, both positive and negative, by understanding them and using tools to reduce emotional vulnerability and suffering.

The Interpersonal Effectiveness module in DBT teaches people with anxiety how to navigate relationships better and handle situations where assertiveness is required.

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