How to use DBT Skills - Borderline (BPD) Skills?

Some helpful information for an emotional emergency

Emotional emergency situation

In the DBT therapy and in good times ("high phases") we have put together an emergency kit prophylactically for stress situations. For the composition of the emergency case you should consider:

  • Practical, small format - so that you can take the emergency case with you wherever you go (e.g. cosmetic bag, belt bag, pencil case, wallet, tin, box, purse)
  • The emergency case should be easy to open
  • Fixed place at home that is easily accessible
  • Variation: You can also place your skills or tools anywhere in your clothing (e.g. jacket) and pockets. Or, you can also carry certain skills with you as a necklace or keychain.

Personal emergency card

In the DBT therapy we have learned to always have our emergency case as well as our personal "timetable" at hand by means of an emergency card for the application and sequence of certain borderline skills.

Therefore we have written a personal emergency card - not bigger than a business card - with the 4 most helpful borderline skills for us. We carry this emergency card with us in our wallets all the time, so that we do not have to think twice in stressful or dangerous situations of everyday life and automatically apply these borderline skills to reduce the inner tension or the stress level to below 70%.

This way we have learned to use the borderline skills automatically instead of falling into dysfunctional behaviour as before.

Skill Chains

If you have the feeling after applying a skill that the skill you applied is useless anyhow, you probably need a skill chain.

In case of extreme tension due to an everyday high-stress or dangerous situation ("loss of control" or close to it) a single skill is usually not enough to lower the tension or pressure. A skill chain is a series of skills that are performed one after the other according to a fixed sequence (" schedule ").

In order to plan or build a skill chain, you should think about and write down a skill sequence so that you have it ready to hand in case of an emergency, as you will most likely find it difficult to build a skill chain in an acute everyday high-stress or dangerous situation.

It is important that you plan the skill chain consciously (depending on the tension factor/stress level) and that you keep the required aids or borderline skills in the emergency case ready to hand.

A possible skill chain with a very high tension factor (+70%) can look like the following:

  • Smelling an ammonia stick
  • Take a cold shower
  • smell your favorite perfume
  • go for a walk
  • Drink coffee/ tea or cocoa

The skill chains probably look different for everyone and can vary depending on the situation. Here we would like to show you a basic framework that you can follow. It is important that the skill chain serves the purpose and brings the desired success.

How and when should you use skills?

It is important to learn a self-caring perception. This means that when you feel that a panic attack is beginning or you are close to a self-harming situation, you should start to work with your personal skills. It is helpful to practice, practice and practice over and over again so you fall into familiar patterns, especially when it comes to an emotional crisis.

In these cases, it is important to stay calm and start with your personal skills. Since every person and every emotional crisis is different, not every skill is suitable. That means you should try and find out beforehand for yourself which skills help best and what is good for you to handle these situations.

But when do I start with my skill exercises?

As early as possible! If you notice and feel, for example, an inner restlessness, your heartbeat accelerates, you get shaky, sweat outbreaks and so on, you should start to use your skills.

If you are on the go and notice that you get somehow triggered, you should start to use your skills.

The key to success is the practice of DBT skills!

Important Disclaimer:
This is an information website and is maintained and supported by affected persons, volunteers and helpers. Under no circumstances does the information replace professional advice or treatment by trained and recognized doctors. We do not offer medical, legal or psychological advice. Our compilations and information are based on our own experience, personal assessments and Internet research. The information & skills presented are intended to help you and support you in your everyday high-stress situations or dangerous situations. And, to encourage you - you are not alone!
The contents of cannot and may not be used to make diagnoses or start treatments on your own.

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