Dialectical Behavior Therapy and Eating Disorders

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Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) was originally developed to treat Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). It has since been proven to be effective in treating a variety of other disorders as well. Eating disorders, substance abuse and other mental issues can be helped by DBT. In particular, recent DBT studies show very promising results for the treatment of eating disorders, including clinical trials that show an 82-90 percent rate of abstinence from binge eating at the end of a 20 session DBT therapy program.

Components of Dialectical Behavior Therapy

DBT consists of four main components, which include the following:

  • Mindfulness training
  • Emotional regulation
  • Distress tolerance
  • Interpersonal skills training

“Dialectical” refers to the dual emphasis on learning to experience and accept emotions and behavioral problems while also learning to cope with and regulate negative feeling states and bring about behavior change. DBT works by doing the following:

  • increases the variety of emotional inputs available in a patient’s environment
  • increases the variety of need fulfillments
  • validates the worth of the individual
  • increases frustration tolerance
  • teaches strategic behavior skills
  • increases sensory input (mindfulness) to substitute sensual activities for food satiety

The variety of benefits offered by DBT may be why this form of therapy has seen such positive results for a broader range of patients than traditional Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT).

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