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Types of Psychotherapy Methods (DBT vs ACT) Used To Treat Depression

Types of Psychotherapy Methods (DBT vs ACT) Used To Treat Depression

Many of us are absorbed in an endless, self-defeating rat race. The nature of modern society has instilled in us a “winner/loser” mindset, and its systems highly prioritise external rewards and punishments as measures of our personal success and social worth. This oftentimes forces us to shift our perception of self-worth from the satisfying efforts of personal endeavour, to the critical imperative of achieving yardsticks of success defined by the rest of society. When we are constantly striving to win a race while focusing on external factors largely beyond our design or control, we’re surely putting ourselves at a disadvantageous position.

The overwhelming pressure to conform to societal expectations, or to outrun others in the race of life, can make one particularly susceptible to depression if negative emotions are not managed well. As we aim for perfection – as most people would – we need to understand that total perfection is unattainable. The more we believe that we have failed to reach a certain state of “perfection”, the greater the extent to which we experience low self-esteem, self-hatred, and depression. Depression can be extremely debilitating to one’s mental health. Apart from the diminishing enthusiasm for life and self-esteem, depressed individuals may self-isolate and pull away from their social circles, making it all the more difficult for them to get the help they need. 

Perhaps one of the healthiest things we can do for ourselves is to accept who we are. Self-acceptance might just be the antidote to excessive self-resentment and discontentment. It is important that we fight against influences that force us to conform to certain standards rather than to accept ourselves.  Presented below are a couple of talk therapy methods that we use to guide you towards achieving that. 

What is ACT?

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) is a form of talk therapy suitable for the treatment of individuals displaying symptoms of depression. As its name suggests, it’s core aims are to help individuals accept whatever is beyond their control, and to commit to actions or habits that will serve to enrich their quality of life. ACT helps us to clarify what is genuinely important to us (i.e our values), and thus assists us to set more meaningful and life-enriching goals. Along the way, it also guides us to practise useful emotion-coping strategies such as mindfulness in order to equip us with skills to handle negative emotions effectively and healthily. While the number of ACT sessions may differ for each individual, the benefits acquired by clients are largely similar:

  • Learning to be fully present in the “here-and-now”, and to stop obsessive worrying over the past or future
  • Become aware of what they are avoiding (be it consciously or subconsciously), and to increase self-awareness
  • Learning to enjoy greater balance and emotional stability, and to be less upset by unpleasant experiences
  • Learning to observe thoughts such that one does not feel held captive by them, and to develop openness
  • To develop self-acceptance and self-compassion
  • Clarifying one’s personal values and taking the appropriate action towards his goals.

You may be wondering, does it really work? The good news is that ACT is considered to be an empirically validated treatment by the American Psychological Association (APA). Through program evaluation data, research has also shown that Veterans who completed ACT treatment phases displayed a significant decrease in depression in addition to improved self-awareness and a better quality of life.

 

What is DBT?

Apart from ACT, another alternative for the treatment of depression is Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT). While originally used for the treatment of Borderline Personality Disorder, DBT has since been adapted to treat other mental health conditions including depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder. A type of cognitive behavioural therapy, DBT aims to help individuals who struggle with emotional-regulation and are exhibiting maladaptive or self-destructing behaviours. It is not an uncommon sight for persons with depression to engage in substance-abuse or self-harm. As such, DBT helps to build on distress tolerance, such that people who struggle with these are able to handle negative life-circumstances better and to avoid falling back on such devastating coping methods.

DBT can be considered a holistic approach to depression treatment. Apart from tackling maladaptive behaviours, it encourages a shift in the clients’ perspective on life, for it equips them with the necessary skills to cope with intense emotions. In short, it empowers you to cope with them with a positive outlook. DBT also recognises that interpersonal effectiveness is key, and hence it strives to help these troubled individuals to reconnect and enhance their relationships with others. 

 

ACT Versus DBT

ACT and DBT are both highly effective methods of treatment for depression. Both forms of psychotherapy allow for individuals to tackle the notion of suffering head-on, and to avoid suppressing undesirable or uncomfortable feelings. Both promote psychological flexibility, and encourage people to behave in a conscious or effective way towards their life-choosing directions. The practice of mindfulness is also a commonality between both therapy methods, and it plays a crucial role in ensuring that persons are well aware of their values, goals and emotions.

However, overlaps between the two are considerably limited too. The main differences between ACT and DBT would be that DBT leans towards a more educative approach while ACT emphasises an experiential one. Perspective wise, DBT adopts a biosocial perspective on behaviour while that of ACT is contextual. Moreover, the underlying philosophy behind each form of therapy also differs. DBT philosophy is dialectical (i.e using logical reasoning and analysis), while the philosophy behind ACT is functional contextualism. With that said, the analysis of clients’ experiences, the use of languages as well as experiential exercises will be different for each type of therapy.

Seeking professional help can be rather daunting, but we need to recognise that psychotherapy is called for if one struggles to accept himself. Don’t deal with depression alone, lean into your support systems and mental health professionals when you need to – your future self will thank you.

 


References:

  1. Richard Hill, The Rise and Rise of Depression in a Competitive Winner/Loser World, video recording, Mental Health Academy

<https://www.mentalhealthacademy.co.uk/dashboard/catalogue/the-rise-and-rise-of-depression-in-a-competitive-winner-loser-world/video> (Accessed 13/02/2021)

  1. https://www.mentalhealth.va.gov/depression/act-d.asp  (Accessed 13/02/2021)
  2. https://behavior-behavior.org/act-fap-dbt/ (Accessed 13/02/2021)
Dual Diagnosis: Anxiety and Substance Use Disorder

Dual Diagnosis: Anxiety and Substance Use Disorder

Anxiety, stress, and fear are common emotions people experience through the course of everyday life.  Anxiety disorders, on the other hand, go beyond our daily worries and fears. Stress and pressure is subjective to each person – anxiety disorders can induce heavy stress and pressure, and these feelings can become more intense over time. Issues that crop up for anxiety disorder sufferers range from anodyne to hair-raising. For example, some people are terrified of meeting new people and having to interact with strangers, while others suffer panic attacks when memories of past traumas surface. The most common types of anxiety disorders are diagnosed as:

  • Panic Disorder (PD)
  • Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
  • Social Anxiety Disorder (Social Phobia)
  • Agoraphobia (Perception of certain environments as unsafe, with no easy escape)
  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
  • Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Not only are there psychological symptoms, people dealing with anxiety disorders may also experience a litany of physical symptoms such as insomnia; inability to concentrate or relax; heart palpitations; gastroenterological issues; and sexual frustration, among others. When all these problems start impinging on one’s behaviour, mood and thoughts, life can start to feel like a slog through quicksand. A once “normal life” now appears out of reach, and getting there again can feel like a Sisyphean task.

What makes people suffering from an anxiety disorder seek out substances?

It’s important to understand a little more about addiction before dealing with this question. Addiction is indubitably a very uncomfortable disorder, and that’s characterising it mildly. For a “preference” to devolve into full blown addiction, a person must keep making the same conscious decisions every day, day after day, that facilitate  indulgence in his or her vice – in spite of a mounting cornucopia of problems. Maintaining an addiction certainly is tiresome. People suffering from addiction make these choices because their addiction serves them a purpose. Concomitant discomfort is tolerated in light of perceived benefits garnered from substance abuse.

A parsimonious way to think about addiction is to assume that it is a simple cost-benefit analysis. For someone struggling with an anxiety disorder, the allure of a “quick-fix” in the form of a suitable drug or drink is hard to ignore. What may begin as a misguided attempt to ameliorate paralysing fear can eventually develop into a fully-fledged addiction. With this in mind, it is now a lot clearer why substance use disorder (SUD) is a co-occurring psychiatric disorder that is one of the most prevalent among people with an anxiety disorder. The most recent and largest comorbidity study to date (with over 43,000 participants), the National Epidemiological Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions (NESARC), found that 17.7% of respondents with an addiction problem also had an anxiety disorder.

Ironically, the problem with the “solution” of substance abuse is that the ”solution” hurts more than helps. It can often exacerbate the anxiety disorder – which becomes ensnared in the convoluted mess that is addiction. Thus comes the slippery slope of anxiety, substance use, and elevated tolerance.

Chronic dependence is the likely consequence of this chain of events. For example, a person who suffers from social phobia might employ stimulants or anxiolytics to engender artificial confidence during a social situation. This can feel liberating, exhilarating, even, for someone who has spent a lifetime on the sidelines. The folly in this endeavour lies in the eventual normalising of this ‘chemically induced courage’ – if you turn it into a precondition to interacting with other human beings, you will only succeed in erecting progressively more imposing barriers in a completely self-defeating, tautological situation.

Are there psychotherapies out there that treat anxiety and addiction together?

Diagnosing a mental disorder in a person who also suffers from an addiction is challenging.

It may be hard to determine which came first, the addiction or the anxiety/depression. A clinical history, which is triangulated with loved ones, teachers and others may assist to know which came first. In any case, both the addiction and the disorders have to be treated at the same time. Otherwise, if untreated, the anxiety and depression may lead to the resumption of drug or alcohol use.  Cognitive behavioural therapies (CBT), meditation and mindfulness therapies, experiential therapies and medication can assist to address both compulsive behaviour and anxiety and depressive disorders.

A trained and experienced mental health professional can help you navigate your addiction recovery journey to ensure that you get the best possible outcome within the guidelines of your values and needs. While this article is about substance addiction, you will find that our team of psychiatrists, psychologists and therapists have the expertise and experience to work with a variety of addictions, and mental health issues such as anxiety disorders.

Understanding Addiction Series – What is Addiction?

Understanding Addiction Series – What is Addiction?

All compulsions, whether to substances or behaviors are usually characterized and observed to have 3 distinct elements for it to be classified as an addiction.

  1. There is preoccupation or obsession: The individuals spend a large amount of time thinking and planning towards acting out their behavior or to obtain substances. There is also an increased amount of finances used to continue the addiction.
  1. There is a loss of control: This usually means that the behavior has become compulsive in its nature. The individual is unable to stop and would have tried unsuccessfully to stop many times. The individual’s life begins to deteriorate but he or she may not admit to themselves and to others that their life has become unmanageable.
  1. There is a continuation of the use of substance or the performance of a behavior that results in negative consequences: This is where individuals tend to incur many losses from their addiction. Finances dry up, relationships become broken. There may be loss of work and emotional or physical difficulties begin taking over the individual’s life as the addiction grips a tighten on them.

Once these are observed, a person may be suffering from an addictive disorder. In addition to the above 3, another feature called tolerance tends to be present as well in addictive disorders. Tolerance basically means needing more of a substance or performance of a behavior to achieve the effect of a “high” in the brain.

As with individuals with a drug addiction they would need an increased amount of the drug to achieve the effect of the high as they become tolerant of the drug. The same is with a gambling disorder where greater risk or bets need to be played and the amount of time spent is much more longer as compared to when they first started gambling. With pornographic addiction, more explicit and arousing images are needed to maintain the fantasy. While the tolerance sets in, the experience of withdrawal begins if the substance or behavior isn’t engaged in. For an alcoholic, tremors may begin when the drinking stops. Irritability and loss of sleep starts taking over as the drug is not present. Thus the need to use over and over again. The chasing of a “high” and the cravings becomes all-consuming and the individual becomes wrapped in a cycle of self-destruction.

The individual’s family and friends would start noticing problems and will often confront the addicted individual. The person may become outright angry and irritated, or defensive if the addiction has been kept a secret. Many family and friends become helpless as they see their loved ones deteriorate.

If you know of anyone or if you might be having difficulties with addiction, do know that help is available. Seek an addictions counsellor or psychiatrist who can help you through treatment for your addiction. You are not alone and don’t need to live in isolation but live the life that you want and be free from the bondage of addiction. Recovery is possible. Contact us for a confidential enquiry today. To understand what causes addiction look out for the next article.

Written by: Jesudas Soundhraj – Counsellor, Promise Healthcare