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How Can DBT Help With Bipolar Disorder?

I suppose we should commence by clarifying the terms in question. DBT is Dialectical Behavioral Therapy. It is specifically designed to address one’s difficulty with regulating their emotions. Bipolar disorder (BD) was once called “manic depression.” It can be recurrent and disabling due to its episodes of depression and mania. Someone with BD may experience extreme mood swings. This, of course, involves difficulty with regulating emotions.

Thus, you can already see why DBT is so often suggested for people with BD. DBT is a form of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. It helps people identify negative thought patterns in the name of creating positive behaviors.

A Little More About Bipolar Disorder

BD is a chronic mental health condition. Its hallmark extreme mood swings most often begin in a person’s teenage or young adult years. However, they can start at any age. This illness varies widely from person to person in terms of what symptoms arise and how severe they are

A crucial component of BD to bear in mind is that those with the disorder are frequently unaware of how extreme their behavior is. To many of them, they feel as if the people in their lives are overreacting or persecuting them. This is why the identification of negative thought patterns is so important with DBT.

DBT’s Four Core Skills and Bipolar Disorder

For the sake of this post, I’ll focus primarily on DBT’s four core skills training:

  • Mindfulness
  • Distress tolerance
  • Emotional regulation
  • Interpersonal effectiveness

Let’s explore how each skill can be helpful for anyone struggling with Bipolar Disorder.


This skill helps us stay in the present moment. So much of your emotional regulation relates to you not living in the past or fearing the future. When a person is mindful, they can more clearly name their emotions — along with the behaviors and thoughts those emotions can provoke. From such a perspective, it is easier to manage the highs and lows.

Distress Tolerance

BD causes distress. Often, it causes a lot of distress. Learning to cope with this distress is a powerful step toward emotional regulation. You become less susceptible to impulsive and often harmful reactions. Also, you can better understand what others see when interacting with you.

woman looks stressedEmotional Regulation

There is a balance you must seek. You want to validate what you feel and why. At the same time, you wish to prevent your emotions from escalating to the point of dysfunction. But how do you know which emotions represent your authentic state of mind? DBT is an effective method for striking this delicate but essential balance.

Interpersonal Effectiveness

Bipolar Disorder can be tough on your relationships. Whether it be friends, family, co-workers, neighbors, or partners — the challenges abound. So, you’re working to become more mindful. Your tolerance for distress feels higher as you strive to regulate negative emotions. Now it’s time to put all of this to work in your interpersonal life.

Interpersonal effectiveness skills help you reduce the potential damage BD can cause. In addition, they empower you to repair the relationships that have already suffered.

How Does This Journey Begin?

Bipolar Disorder cannot be treated with self-care. You will need the intervention and support of a trained mental health professional. BD also cannot be cured but it can be effectively treated and managed. But I can imagine you have questions. You may have lots of questions. Such a dialogue is a great place to start.

Take another look at the four core skills above. If this type of change is what you seek and what you need, we should talk very soon. Let’s connect for a free and confidential consultation  for dbt therapy. Bring all your questions with you!

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