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Depression and Risky Behavior

Why self-destructive behavior may accompany depression and what to do about it.

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)

For anyone who's depressed, therapy is a key part of treatment. One form of therapy, called dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), offers promise for some self-destructive behaviors, experts tell WebMD.

DBT is a form of cognitive behavioral therapy that was originally developed to treat borderline personality disorder, which often involves self-destructive behaviors. Now, some therapists use DBT to treat substance abuse, eating disorders, anger, and other problem behaviors.

According to Gardenswartz, a depressed person with a substance addiction still needs an inpatient rehab program, but DBT could help address other self-injurious behaviors.

“It’s a fantastic treatment,” Andover says of DBT. But she adds that it is a highly intensive approach that requires lots of resources and may not be right for everyone.

The cornerstones of DBT include: addressing dangerous and impulsive behaviors in order to improve control, learning how to deal with distress and manage extreme emotions, training in interpersonal skills, and finding effective and socially acceptable ways to handle life’s problems.

It’s called dialectical behavior therapy because it combines two seemingly opposite ideas: fully accepting people in their current condition while actively helping them to change problem behaviors. According to DBT proponents, acceptance and empathy -- not rejection -- help motivate people to change.  

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Reviewed on June 23, 2011

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