DBT for Borderline Personality Disorder

February 11, 2022

Dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) has shown to be a great treatment for someone with borderline personality disorder (BPD). It actually helps many mental health conditions by focusing on emotion regulation and mindfulness.

BPD can cause a person to have difficulties with self-image, emotional regulation, thoughts of suicide, interpersonal relationships, and other symptoms. With effective treatment, the symptoms of BPD can improve which can allow the person to have a happy and meaningful life.

If you have BPD, you may think your chances of getting better aren’t very good. However, research has shown that if you seek help, your prognosis can be very good. DBT was first created as a treatment specifically for those with BPD. Today, it’s still seen as the best type of therapy for someone with BPD. 

In this article you’ll read about:

If you or someone you know has BPD, keep reading to learn more.

What is Borderline Personality Disorder?

BPD is a mental health condition that affects the way you think, especially in regards to yourself and the people you interact with on a daily basis. Typically, symptoms of BPD are apparent in adolescence. Characteristics of BPD include:

These characteristics establish a pattern over time that can make it difficult to function in society. If you have BPD, you may not experience all of these symptoms. Depending on the person, the duration and severity of these symptoms may vary. What may be seen by most as a simple event may be extremely triggering for you if you have BPD. You may start having a panic attack if you are separated from a person close to you when you leave them to go to work or school.

Here’s a more in-depth look at the symptoms of BPD:

Extreme Mood Swings

Something seemingly small may happen such as your significant other spilling a cup of juice on the carpet. Instead of being mildly irritated, you go into a state of intense anger. This can be seen as inappropriate anger for this type of situation. This anger can either look like rage or intense passive-aggressive behavior such as bitter or sarcastic comments.

Overwhelming Fear of Abandonment

If you have BPD you may have an overwhelming fear of being abandoned. You may be extremely attached to a person such as a parent or significant other. If they try to separate themselves from you by kicking you out of the house or breaking up with you, you may go to extremes to avoid this separation. 

It’s common for people with BPD to threaten self-harm (including getting drunk and high) or fake an illness to try to make the other person stay with them. 

You may take such extreme measures to keep the other person around that you actually drive them away more.

Impulsive Behavior

Just because you engage in impulsive and risky behavior doesn’t necessarily mean you have BPD. However, people with BPD are more inclined to engage in this type of behavior than other people.

Risky behaviors can include:

Impulsive behaviors include:


These behaviors can make it very difficult to maintain positive relationships with people in your life.

A Pattern of Unstable Relationships

A pattern of unstable relationships is a very good indicator that you may have BPD. The characteristics of these relationships often involve you idealizing the other person intensely and later shifting to strong feelings of complete anger and dislike.

Here's an illustration:

You may find that you start out liking people you interact with at work or in a social environment. You talk about them and how great they are. You may have unrealistic lofty ideas of the amazing stuff you are going to do with this person in the future. 

Then one day, the other person does something that you dislike. All of a sudden you become very hostile towards them. You block their phone number and block them on social media as well. Anytime someone brings this other person up, you have nothing but terrible things to say about them.

People with BPD often see the world as “black or white”. They have trouble with “gray” areas.

What is DBT and How Does It Help People with BPD?

As said before, DBT is known to be the most effective therapy/treatment for anyone who has BPD. DBT helps you develop core skills such as emotional regulations, distress tolerance, mindfulness, interpersonal effectiveness. 

DBT can be utilized in different scenarios. These include:

Of the skills DBT teaches, the one that most people are familiar with is mindfulness. Mindfulness is the practice of being in the present moment. You can focus on your 5 senses and talk to yourself or someone else about what you are experiencing in the present moment. 

Being in the present moment can allow you to see a situation from a different perspective. You may find yourself in difficult situations but realize that you don’t have to control them or other people.

Mindfulness practices can also help regulate emotions and keep them from getting too high or too low. This can lead to calmer interactions with other people. You learn to be assertive in an appropriate manner and you learn to truly listen to what others are saying.

There is no “cure” for BPD. It can, however, be treated. Left untreated, BPD can lead to some very negative outcomes for you and the people around you. It can also lead to suicidal ideation and suicide.

If you feel that you may have some of the symptoms of BPD, the first step is addressing that you may have them. Awareness can open the door for positive changes.

The next step is to contact a mental health professional. You might want to seek the advice of your primary care physician or ask them to give you a referral.

If you have BPD you may have an overwhelming fear of being abandoned. You may be extremely attached to a person such as a parent or significant other. If they try to separate 

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