Managing Extreme Emotions

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Emotion Regulation is the Dialectical Behavioral Therapy module that teaches how emotions work. It provides skills to help manage emotions instead of being managed by them, reduce vulnerability to negative emotions, and build positive emotional experiences.

Many folks experience extreme emotions from time to time. Those with BPD or other reasons for seeking DBT experience them more frequently. It’s important to determine if your emotions have reached a level known in DBT as the “Skills Breakdown Point.”

If you’re at this point:

  • You’re in extreme distress
  • You’re feeling overwhelmed
  • You can’t focus on anything other than your extreme emotion
  • Your mind is shut down and not processing information
  • You can’t solve problems or use complex skills

Observe and describe your current situation.

Now use Check the Facts to determine if all of these characteristics of a skill breakdown point apply to your current situation.

If you find you’re not at your skills breakdown point yet, use any of your DBT skills that make sense for the situation.

If you are at your skills breakdown point, follow these steps:

  1. Use crisis survival skills to bring down your physiological arousal
    1. TIP
    2. ACCEPTS
    3. Self-Soothe
    4. IMPROVE
  2. Use Mindfulness of Current Emotions (or Ride the Wave)
  3. Try other emotion regulation skills if needed

If these techniques are not working and you are in danger of hurting yourself, killing yourself, or hurting someone else, please seek additional assistance from a trusted person or a crisis support service.