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#42: Distress Tolerance Overview Part 1

The Distress Tolerance skills in DBT offer creative ways to get through challenging situations without making things worse. Today’s episode is Part 1 of an overview of Distress Tolerance as a whole, with a special focus on change-oriented skills.

When emotional distress is high, there can be an intense desire to do something to make the distress stop. Very often, when we numb or distance ourselves from distressing emotions, we create new problems. The DBT skills discussed in today’s episode help you respond to hard emotions in ways that you won’t regret. These skills are also helpful when you need to get things done but you’re too overwhelmed to get started or think clearly.

Show Highlights

  • These skills help you get through crisis situations without making things worse
  • Don’t use these skills to solve problems or build the life you want
  • Checking in with yourself: what’s my distress level right now? Tuning in and knowing how you are doing gives you power and control to make different choices
  • These are all signs that your distress is rising: Heart beating fast, racing thoughts, tense muscles, shallow breathing, ruminating
  • Often when distress is high, the best action is no action
  • Reach for TIP skills when you are most upset
  • Distraction can be incredibly helpful and necessary when distress is high
  • Distraction won’t solve problems, but it gives you an opportunity to calm down enough to think about using other skills
  • Using your mind to get out of your mind
  • Contributing is a way to distract, and you get an added bonus of feeling good about helping others
  • Using the 5 senses to both distract and comfort yourself sends yourself the message that you are worth taking care of and being kind to

DBT Skills Discussed

Links & Resources

SUDs (Subjective Units of Distress) scale

Ask us a Question

We’d love to hear from you! Where are you getting stuck with your skills application? Ask us a question for the chance to have it answered on the podcast. Submit your question here. 

Please note that questions, and this podcast in general, are not a substitute for individual mental health treatment.