4D Distress Tolerance

This page provides an introduction to DBT Distress Tolerance skills, which aim to help us achieve ‘Acceptance’ of our current emotions or situations, whilst learning behaviours to change the way we react to similar emotions or events.

So, what are Distress Tolerance skills?

From time to time we will all experience painful emotions or situations that are unavoidable. When there isn’t anything that we can do to avoid them, being able to accept the distress and tolerate the situation is really important in getting us through the moment.

Distress tolerance is about learning to manage strong emotions and stressful situations, in a way that helps us to gain more control over those emotions and more control over the choices we make and the actions we take.

Distress Tolerance skills help you to cope with stress in healthier ways.

It’s important to remember, that acceptance and tolerance of reality is not about saying that what happened or is happening is ok; instead it’s about acknowledging that it is reality.

There are a number of reasons why acceptance and tolerance of strong emotions and stressful situations is important; these include:

  • pain and distress is part of life, and they can’t always be avoided
  • learning to accept and cope with strong emotions, will help us to better deal with future challenges
  • we are more able make ‘wise mind’ choices if we are able to bring some calm acceptance into our mind
  • suffering comes from fighting pain; trying to fight or avoid painful thoughts usually creates more painful thoughts. Learning how to experience, tolerate and accept the pain is a technique to reduce that pain.

Distress tolerance is complimented by (and in some ways builds upon) mindfulness, a key aim that they have in common is to provide you with skills that enable you to accept without judgement (you can only truly ‘accept’ if it is done without judgement, if you are judging it then you are not truly letting it go/letting it be).

Put simply, distress tolerance is about enabling you to be aware of:

  • your environment, without demanding for it to be different
  • your emotional state, as it is now, without trying to change it
  • your patterns of thoughts and actions, without trying to stop or control them

There are two key themes within DBT Distress Tolerance skills:

You can use the links below to access more detailed information

Tolerating and surviving crisis

Accepting life as it is in the moment

These skills can be used at any time, but they can be really helpful when things feel out of control and your emotions and thoughts are boiling over.  These skills can help to release the pressure; then, when the stressful moment is no longer unbearable, your other DBT skills can help you in maintaining the progress that you have managed you to achieve.

Related Pages – Crises Survival: Distract, Self-soothe, Improve the moment, Pros & Cons

Related Pages – Acceptance Skills:  Acceptance, Acceptance Exercises