There are a variety of different approaches, skills and tools currently available and accessible which may be used to provide valuable coping strategies for enabling the eating disorder sufferer to move forward in recovery. One such skill to be explored in this article is typically used within the framework of Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT). DBT primarily involves teaching the patient a variety of new techniques and coping strategies to add to their tool box including the following: self-harm reduction, mood regulation and effective interpersonal skills.
- What is distress tolerance?
- Distress tolerance plan
- Key benefits of distress tolerance
What is Distress Tolerance?
The introduction and application of distress tolerance skills are used in order to help the sufferer modify risky or unhelpful behaviour patterns. As extremely high levels of anxiety are very common amongst eating disorder sufferers, distress-tolerance skills are used to help cope with this symptom. Within the framework of DBT, distress tolerance skills include both distraction and self-soothing tools. Samelson also suggests another useful separate skill that of social support. This is especially relevant as eating disorders thrive in isolation and also may cause the sufferer to feel cut off from friends and family who would otherwise serve as a much needed support system.
Distress Tolerance Plan
A distress tolerance plan is a way of recording the key coping strategies that are helpful to the specific individual suffering from an eating disorder. It may also benefit those suffering from other mental health problems such as depression. All one needs to begin is simply a pen and paper. As weight restoration is a hugely anxiety-provoking element of recovery, this sample plan will focus on this specific issue. Divide the paper into three columns with the different headings of distraction, self-soothing and social support. In the distraction column write several ideas that have either worked in the past or you think you can attempt. Examples of distraction strategies include: gardening, cleaning, watching TV/movie or making a scrapbook. Ideas for the second column on self-soothing may include: stroking a pet, listening to relaxing music, journaling or having a long hot soak. Social support suggestions may include: e-mailing a friend, going to church/club, chatting to a relative or visiting a close friend.
Key Benefits of the Distress Tolerance Plan
The main benefits of using a distress tolerance plan to cope with eating disorder associated symptoms include the following: it provides suggestions of three simple but effective ways to fight anxiety and may be viewed (along with the menu plan) as a key weapon against the illness, through writing the main ideas down on a card one can then have access to one’s coping tool box throughout the day.