Distress tolerance refers to one’s ability to endure or tolerate emotional pain or distress. When a person starts using addictive substances, they can rapidly lower their level of distress tolerance. Instead of withstanding unwanted feelings, they begin to turn to drug or alcohol abuse immediately.
In recovery, relapse can be prevented by developing one’s distress tolerance skills. The first goal is to identify triggers and emotions that a person has previously attempted to manage with substances.
Distress tolerance skills are a significant component of dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT), a therapeutic intervention used to treat addiction and substance abuse. They play a vital role in addiction recovery and can be very effective tools for navigating stressful modern-day life while maintaining abstinence.
For those recovering from drug and alcohol addiction, stress can severely undermine sobriety. If left unaddressed in a healthy manner, stress can cause cravings for substances. Over time, recovering addicts may succumb to impulses to use intoxicants and suddenly find themselves going back into active substance use.
To relieve stress, recovering addicts must develop and engage in techniques to calm themselves and remain focused on the present. A practical tool to help addicts accomplish this objective is using distress tolerance skills.
What Is Distress Tolerance Training?
Simply defined, distress tolerance is understanding some situations are difficult or impossible to change. During periods of abstinence, it may be easy to get discouraged when encountering the stresses of daily living. While there can be many setbacks in living a sober life, developing distress tolerance skills can help calm a person’s mind and help those in recovery adapt to a more realistic view of the external world.
What Is Radical Acceptance?
One of the hallmarks of distress tolerance training is the concept of radical acceptance, which states that a person needs to wholly accept a stressful or adverse situation and not hold unrealistic expectations about how things should be. As noted, focusing on the here and now is key to reducing stress. To practice radical acceptance, those in recovery must engage in a procedure called turning the mind.
With this practice, a recovering addict will need to identify when their thoughts drift from the present. When these unneeded thoughts emerge, they will not be judged as right or wrong or good or bad. Instead, the person will need to engage in deep breathing to bring their mind to the present moment.
An essential part of radical acceptance is realizing that a situation does not have to go on indefinitely. Using this effective tool for addiction recovery gives someone the power to control the current situation to alter the future positively. This helpful tool can be used at any time to change the way an individual perceives a situation and can be utilized as a powerful intervention and relapse prevention method.
Distress Tolerance Training and Activities
The core of distress tolerance training can be broken down into four main elements. The first is a distraction. With this technique, people turn their focus away from unhealthy thoughts towards enjoyable or neutral activities. These can include exercising, engaging in hobbies, writing down feelings and experiences, etc.
Self-soothing is another activity associated with distress tolerance training. With self-soothing, addicts learn to engage their senses to find positivity, beauty, and harmony. For instance, individuals can learn to focus on nature or art when stress transpires in their daily lives.
Another critical practice in this form of stress management training is referred to as improving the moment. The objective of this exercise is to help people to regard the positives in the present moment. This can include prayer, visualizing desirable outcomes, taking a mental break from the moment, and returning to it when their batteries are recharged, so to speak.
The final skill associated with distress tolerance training is focusing on the pros and cons. With this technique, an individual is asked to note the pros and cons of tolerating stress instead of letting stress completely take over their lives. By evaluating advantages and disadvantages, persons can understand the benefits of tolerating pain and distress and, therefore, reduce their impact on their lives.
Getting Help for Addiction
Developing distress tolerance skills in addiction recovery is one intervention among many that can help guide a person through recovery from substance abuse and dependence. One of the keys to long-term success is to obtain the tools and support needed to regain control of one’s life.
Just Believe Detox and Just Believe Recovery feature both traditional and holistic therapies that empower individuals to make positive changes to their lives. Our dedicated and experienced mental and medical healthcare personnel develop treatment programs that are customized to the individuals and included a wide variety of therapies and activities, including the following:
- Medical detox
- Individual/family counseling
- Group support
- Health and wellness education
- Substance abuse education
- Dual diagnosis treatment
- Relapse prevention
- Art and music therapy
- Mindfulness meditation
- Aftercare planning
- Alumni events