Symptoms & Diagnosis

DBT Treatment: The Art of Self-Soothing

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People with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) often have a hard time managing stress. You may turn to unhealthy habits, such as smoking, substance abuse, or an eating disorder, to deal with problems and stressful situations. 

One of the skills taught in Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), a treatment developed for Borderline Personality Disorder, is distress tolerance. Part of distress tolerance, as taught through DBT, involves the art of self-soothing. Self-soothing means using your senses to help you feel calmer, ease your mind, and better tolerate a stressful situation or problem.

The next time you are facing a stressful situation or feel out of control of a situation, try these healthier methods of coping:


  • Look at beautiful artwork in a museum.
  • Go for a walk in a wooded area or on the beach.
  • Decorate your work or home environment with colors that are the most pleasing to you. If you can’t decide on a color, green and blue have been shown to reduce heart rate.


  • Listen to a mix of your favorite music.
  • Go to an area where you can hear your favorite natural sounds: birds singing, a running stream, or children playing.
  • If you prefer silence, shut out external noise with earplugs (just not while driving).


  • Carry around a small vile of your favorite perfume, cologne, or oil essence.
  • Enjoy the scents of nature after a rainfall just by walking around your own neighborhood. Or go for a stroll in the early morning, before rush hour, when the air is freshest and has the least amount of pollution.
  • Bake something in your oven or toaster oven that will fill your living space with a warm fragrance.


  • Carry around mints or chewing gum.
  • Keep a variety of herbal teas in stock in your home or workplace.
  • Eat mindfully, taking small bites and really savoring every flavor.  

Hands and Body

  • Use a lotion on your skin after a shower or bath. Hand lotion can work at any time of the day.
  • Gardening, cooking, or craft-making will put your skin in contact with all kinds of textures.
  • Get a massage, or give yourself a neck or hand massage.  

In addition to our senses, we can also soothe our minds. Write your thoughts into a journal or vent to a trusted friend. Sometimes putting your stress into words helps you to realize that not only is the problem not that serious, but also that there are plenty of solutions that you haven’t thought of yet. 

If you have Borderline Personality Disorder, calling on these DBT skills can help you to better handle your stress and make a more complete recovery from BPD.

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