DBT for bipolar disorder: Does it work?


Dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT), which is a type of psychotherapy, has been found to be highly effective in the treatment of a range of mental health conditions, specifically borderline personality disorder. It is not typically mentioned when it comes to the treatment of bipolar disorders. But some research suggests that it can, in fact, be extremely helpful for patients dealing with a bipolar disorder. We’ll explain what DBT is and how it can help you with managing your bipolar disorder.

What is DBT?

DBT is a type of therapy developed for the treatment of borderline personality disorder. It has been found to help with many types of mental health conditions, however, as it aims to help people regulate, control and cope with their emotions more effectively.

DBT teaches mindfulness, emotion regulation, distress tolerance skills and personal effectiveness to

  • Improve emotional regulation
  • Reduce vulnerability to negative emotions
  • Reduce maladaptive coping behaviours associated with strong emotions

Does DBT for bipolar work?

According to research, there is growing evidence that individuals with bipolar have a compromised capacity to regulate their emotions in response to stimuli.

Following treatment for an episode [hyperlink to homepage definition], patients often continue to experience lower levels of persistent mood symptoms that, if not addressed, may make them vulnerable to experiencing another episode.

Therefore, studies have begun to investigate whether DBT can be a beneficial therapeutic option for patients with a bipolar disorder.

A 2017 study on 37 participants with bipolar I disorder who engaged in a 12 week DBT course found that 88% of participants benefitted from the programme.

The study authors noted that the DBT course could have been the reason why participants remained free of manic symptoms when they were followed up three months later.

Participants showed increases in mindfulness, distress tolerance and in their ability to regulate their emotions.


DBT is a very useful psychotherapy for a number of mental health conditions, particularly borderline personality disorder. Research shows it can also be beneficial for people struggling with bipolar disorders. Successfully completing a DBT programme may even help prevent the reoccurrence of manic symptoms. Therefore, DBT should be an adjunct therapy that is routinely delivered in treatment programmes addressing bipolar disorders.

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