Despite its efficacy in treating BPD, an increasing body of evidence suggests that DBT may be useful in treating a range of other mental health conditions. Several studies that have been conducted in mixed-diagnostic samples indicate that regardless of the disorder (mood disorders, anxiety disorders, and/or substance use disorders), DBT-based interventions may be effective in increasing hope and reducing depression and anxiety22 as well as decreasing emotion dysregulation and increasing skills use.16 DBT works in treating other mental health conditions in similar ways that it works in treating BPD. For bipolar disorder (BD), for example, DBT has been found to be associated with improved psychological well-being and decreased emotion reactivity, skill acquisition in the areas of mindfulness, emotion regulation and distress tolerance3 as well as decreased depressive symptomatology and increased self-efficacy in those with BD.23
Some evidence also supports the efficacy of DBT in reducing anxiety,9 rates major depressive disorder and the suicidal tendencies that may accompany it.13 Preliminary evidence also supports that this efficacy may extend to the treatment of persistent complex bereavement disorder and persistent depressive disorder.1 Further, it has been suggested that DBT may be efficacious for decreasing episodes of disordered eating, among women and adolescents in particular.5,12 For adolescents with eating disorders, DBT was associated with lower scores on the Global Eating Disorder Examination, a reduced frequency of binge episodes and a decreased frequency of purging.5 DBT has also been shown to reduce treatment interfering behaviors, psychiatric and medical hospitalizations in individuals diagnosed with eating disorders.4
Considering that there is high comorbidity (as high as 65%) between borderline personality disorder and substance use disorder (SUD),21 it is not surprising that DBT has also been supported as a potential treatment for SUD. Evidence suggests that dialectical behavior therapy was effective in increasing emotional regulation and distress tolerance in substance abusers,14 with the substance use disorders of 96% of adolescents in some samples being “recovered” or “improved” after DBT in a residential treatment center.2
Considering the literature reviewed here, it may be that in coming years, with more randomized controlled studies, DBT becomes more widely recognized as a treatment for a variety of disorders other than BPD. The patterns found in preliminary evidence related to its efficacy are optimistic and should be considered further.
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