DBT stands for Dialectal Behavioural Therapy, which is an evidence-based psychotherapy that began with efforts to treat Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD or known also as EUPD), which is one of my many diagnosis'. This illness is categorised by strong mood swings lasting a few hours or even a couple days, dependant on the situation and individual. This illness makes it very hard for the sufferer to understand reason, and logic whilst in an episode and often leads to self-injury and suicidal ideation amongst many other symptoms. DBT is used to learn emotional regulatory skills as well as, distress tolerance, interpersonal effectiveness and mindfulness. In essence, this therapy gives out particular skills that can be used as healthier coping mechanisms for strong emotions. Distracting tools, or self-soothing skills that help us to learn how to self-regulate. Most people with BPD suffered an unhealthy upbringing or some kind of trauma in their past and trauma changes the way we view the world and our loved ones. My BPD tells me that nobody loves me, that I am unworthy of love and all that comes with it, that my friends or family secretly conspire behind my back, pretend to like me and ultimately that everyone will leave in the end.
Self-destructive behaviour patterns exacerbate these beliefs and I, myself, am always facing an internal fight between what my illness is telling me and what my loved ones tell me. BPD comes with huge emptiness, abandonment and trust issues so, retraining my beliefs and thought patterns is a serious struggle, but that is was DBT was made for. Although, for an illness like BPD it gets even tougher when we start to question our behaviours, our belief systems and the mere exploration of our mental illness can be very agitating. This illness does not want to be known, understood or overpowered. It wants the individual to stay as they are, using unhealthy and harmful coping skills. The dangers of leaving a mood disorder like this one untreated is the unrelenting illness itself and how it takes ahold of a sufferers life.
DBT however, shouldn't just be for mood disorders. Imagine how much stabilised our children would be if this therapy was implemented in their school? It is known that we begin obtaining empathy at 4 years old, so if we then factored into the mix daily DBT & mindfulness from this age we would bring up a generation of kids that understand how to self-regulate and look after their minds, super important for those developing years but also just in general. This therapy teaches you how to cope with intense emotions, sorrow, fear, anger etc... The skills learnt in DBT literally save lives, it's certainly saved my life multiple times.
An example of a skill that I probably use daily, is what I call the rule of 5. Taking 5-10 minutes to focus in, to take deep breaths and find 5 things you can hear, 4 things you can touch, 3 things you can see, 2 things you can smell and 1 thing you can taste. I will then take 5 minutes to reflect on this exercise, talking about each item in as much detail as possible. This distracts the emotional mind and makes your pre-frontal cortex get to work, this part of the brain is responsible for our cognitive function, expression, and decision making. Give it a try!
My one wish, this suicide prevention month is that our mental health services can be given a boost. The impact of the pandemic has been catastrophic to so many minds all over the world and I am calling on each of you to just do one good act today; go and sign the petition (linked below) for DBT for all, for anyone who may want or need but also, try and see where DBT skills can fit into your life.