Defining a crisis in DBT

What is a crisis in DBT?

What is a crisis in DBT?

A crisis in DBT (Dialectical Behavior Therapy) is defined as a temporary situation that is making you feel awful and in danger of acting in ways that you’ll later regret.

You may be feeling sadness, anger or really overwhelmed with life in general.

Whatever the feeling, it’s super painful.

Some crises can be solved right away. If there is a clear solution to the crisis, then of course, do what you need to do to solve the problem.

Many of life’s painful problems, though, can’t be solved right away. Or, the problem can be solved but you’re so distraught in the moment that you can’t think clearly about how to make things better.


A crisis in DBT can also be…

… a situation where you have to do something that feels stressful and you have strong urges to avoid doing what needs to be done.

For example, you have to complete a project for work or write a paper for school. The deadline is approaching and you’re starting to freak out. Yet you keep putting off doing what you need to do and you don’t understand why.

In these situations, avoiding responsibilities will create more problems down the line.

Some examples of doing things in a crisis that makes things worse:

  • Sending angry emails and texts or leaving angry voicemails
  • Threatening to end relationships
  • Lashing out at others – your partner, friends, co-workers or strangers
  • Drinking or using drugs
  • Self-harming such as cutting, hitting or pinching yourself
  • Overeating, restricting or bingeing and purging
  • Compulsive shopping

Some examples of ways you might avoid doing things:

  • Procrastinating
  • Sleeping too much
  • Spending hours online or watching TV
  • Not opening mail, listening to voicemails or reading emails


These are the times to use the DBT distress tolerance skills to get you through.

Distress tolerance skills in DBT help you ride out difficult times without hurting yourself or doing something to make the situation worse.



Having a hard time getting through crisis situations in your life? DBT can help.

Call (415) 310-5142 for a phone consultation.