Calming the Mind: Dialectical Behavior Therapy & Addiction

People take pride in who they are. You can find comfort or confidence in a personality trait that you think makes you stand out from others. Pride in your actions, choices and advancements is typical. You can have many different reasons that motivate you to reach goals or feel good about yourself. However, some people lack self-confidence, cannot regulate their emotions or have a mental health disorder that can affect their well-being.

Your loved ones can encourage you to begin therapy, but you may feel threatened by their wish for you to change. Being forced into changing can drive you away from treatment. Mental health care is crucial to self-care. Let’s explore more about mental health disorders, substance addiction and how dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) can help you manage it all.

Mental Health Care

Your mental health is crucial to your overall well-being. Mental health disorders can result in you placing yourself in harmful or dangerous situations. When you know the signs or symptoms of mental health or substance use disorder, you can bolster your well-being by entering treatment.

You may be wondering how to know if you have a mental health disorder. The list below isn’t comprehensive, but it does include some of the more well-known types of conditions.

Borderline Personality 

Borderline personality disorder (BPD) affects moods, self-image and behavior. 

  • People with BPD experience mood changes — for example, going between feeling happy, sad or angry quickly. The symptoms of BPD can result in rash or impulsive behavior and relationship problems. 
  • Things are perceived in severe terms – something is either good or bad.
  • Relationships are complicated because a person can go from being liked one day to being hated the next day.
  • Fear of abandonment can come up. Relationships and intimacy (physical or emotional) can form quickly or end unexpectedly because the fear of being abandoned, real or imagined, overtakes a person.
  • A distorted sense of self or self-image is prevalent in those with BPD. The belief of being fat, ugly, unstoppable or any similar feeling can shift how a person views themselves.
  • Dangerous or rash behaviors, such as engaging in unprotected sex with strangers, substance abuse or other reckless actions, is associated with BPD.
  • Cutting or another form of self-harm and suicidal ideations can occur.

You may recognize two or more of these symptoms in your behavior. While those symptoms don’t always mean you have BPD, you should talk with a therapist.

Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder is a mental health disorder characterized by rapid mood changes and increased or decreased energy, concentration and the ability to perform daily tasks. 

  • Manic behaviors include:
  • Feeling elated, irritable or sensitive
  • A decreased need for sleep
  • Loss of appetite
  • Increased speed of speech and discussing multiple topics
  • Increased sense of self — feeling powerful, better than others or gifted
  • Depressive behaviors include:
  • Feeling hopeless, empty or extremely sad
  • Restlessness
  • Sleep issues including insomnia or excessive sleeping
  • An increase in appetite or weight
  • Loss of memory or concentration
  • Loss of interest in activities

Substance Addiction

A person with a mental health disorder can seek to suppress or hide their feelings with alcohol or substances. Some signs of substance — alcohol or drugs — addiction are:

  • The need to use the substance daily or throughout the day
  • Cravings that overtake any other thought or activity
  • Increasing the amount of the substance to retain the feeling once found in a lower dose
  • Failing to meet work, family or social obligations

Whether you have bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder or substance addiction, there are various therapy types. One type of therapy is dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), which combines the belief you can change with accepting where you are in your treatment plan. 

Dialectical Behavior Therapy  

Marsha Linehan, Ph.D., a mental health researcher, developed dialectical behavior therapy (DBT). Dr. Linehan recognized that applying cognitive and behavior therapy to mental health disorders like borderline personality, bipolar or chronic suicidal ideations wasn’t working. Some of the reasons why cognitive and behavior therapy failed with some people are:

  • The focus of changing a person’s behavior, for some, invalidated their feelings. Instead of having a positive effect, therapy led to withdrawal from sessions, confronting the therapist or going between withdrawing and attacking.
  • Teaching and establishing healthy habits proved challenging to accomplish in individual sessions when there was a need to focus on why a person wanted to die, drink or use a substance.
  • The person builds up the therapist’s feeling of success by ending attacks when the therapist goes from a topic they don’t want to discuss to a more comfortable topic. A person can also try to discipline their therapist by harming themselves if they refuse to give them the treatment they want.

After comparing active participation in therapy rates with reasons why some left therapy, Dr. Linhan decided to combine cognitive therapy with behavioral therapy. Since DBT’s inception, it has expanded to include those with substance dependence. Dialectical behavior therapy incorporates accepting the person for who they are and their current capacity with encouraging change. The treatment takes on Zen and contemplative theories.

Another aspect of DBT is breaking therapy into separate components. These components are:

  • Individual therapy
  • Group skills lessons — either individual or group sessions
  • Finding ways to keep a person engaged in their treatment

DBT is useful because it encourages people with BPD or other psychological disorders like substance addiction to look within themselves to find healthy ways to cope with their emotions. You can benefit from DBT if you have any of the disorders mentioned. When you learn how to identify your feelings, use them to create positive forms of motivation, increase your awareness of how your emotions and reactions affect you and others, you can heal.


Mental health, alcohol or drug addiction disorders can negatively impact our lives. Treatment centers that combine substance addiction treatment with psychological modes of treatment can increase your chance of healing the rift between relationships. When you work with a therapist who understands therapy is about simultaneously changing and motivating you, healing can begin. You deserve a therapist who will teach you techniques to cope with your emotions. Cliffside Malibu encourages its patients to formulate a treatment plan with their therapist that aids them in finding healthy ways to express their emotions. We know you don’t want to hurt your relationships with friends and family or the ones you have with yourself. Our wish is to guide you to find healthy modes of communication and a path toward long-lasting recovery. To learn more, call (855) 403-5641.