DBT for Dysregulated Eating

Dysregulated Eating covers a wide range of behaviors commonly referred to as Eating Disorders, including anorexia, bulimia, binge eating, self-induced vomiting, purging and food restriction. DBT – dialectical behavior therapy – has been shown to be effective for many people who are struggling with these issues, because it is based on helping them to understand the triggers for their behaviors, and learning how to modify them.

Research into Treatment Modalities

Many of the issues that often underlie dysregulated eating are now understood as mechanisms that people use in order to cope with their emotional vulnerability. Clinical studies of other treatment modalities, such as cognitive behavioral therapy and psychotherapy, have shown that they may be only partially effective for some patients. By tackling the underlying issues of emotional vulnerability and helping patients to regulate their emotions, DBT skills and therapy techniques can play an important part in their treatment plan over both the short and long term.

Research into the impact of comprehensive DBT programs that include weekly consultation meetings, therapy and DBT skills training, have shown them to be helpful in treating both eating disorders and self-harming behaviors. Researchers are also investigating how DBT skills can be taught to people who restrict their food consumption, as a treatment for their over-control drive. Details of these research studies are documented in “How DBT Can Help Treat Eating Disorders” by Lucene Wisniewski, PhD, FAED (June 2016).

How Can DBT Help with Eating Disorders?

It may be appropriate to try DBT therapy whenever  patterns of dysregulated eating are thought to be related to emotion regulation issues. After all, learning to regulate ones emotions is one of the four central pillars of DBT skills training, along with Mindfulness Skills, Distress Tolerance and Interpersonal Effectiveness. Learning about emotion regulation can help patients to identify and label their emotions, to identify obstacles to changing those emotions, to reduce emotional reactivity, and to learn how to change their mood and avoid destructive behaviors by increasing positive emotions.

Typically people who restrict their food intake are doing so in order to numb their emotions and to feel in control, but they are also struggling with anxiety and fears about what they should or should not eat. Body image and genuine concerns about obesity, nutrition, health and fitness, are strong drivers in many people who present with eating disorders, so when we treat people who are struggling with dysregulated eating we take these issues into account.

Understanding Over Control

DBT is often recommended for disorders associated with Excessive Self Control, and there is a specific technique known as Radically Open Dialectical Behavior Therapy (RO-DBT) that is being used for patients who have issues of Over Control. Self Control and Over Control are typical features of eating disorders, where patients are able to inhibit their desire for food and delay gratification in order to pursue other goals such as weight loss. At Machon Dvir we are preparing to provide treatment solutions and skills groups for this group of patients.

How We Can Help

At Machon Dvir in Jerusalem, we work with patients who want to regulate their eating, their emotions and other aspects of their behavior, and who recognize the need to overcome these destructive behavior patterns in order to lead healthier lives. We provide individual DBT therapy together with careful medical monitoring, and offer suitable patients the opportunity to participate in a DBT skills group.

Talk to us today if you think that DBT therapy at the Dvir Institute in Jerusalem could help you or a friend to regain control of their dysregulated eating behavior. (Please note that we do not offer emergency support – please seek immediate assistance from local medical professionals if you think that someone is endangering their life.)