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DBT Opposite action

DBT Opposite action

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Opposite action is a technique used in Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) to manage difficult emotions. It is to act or think in a way that is opposite to the emotion you are feeling.

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Possible Benefits

  • May improve mood
  • May improve stress tolerance
  • Can help strengthen self-control 
  • Can help avoid impulsive actions
  • Can help reduce anxiety
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Required Equipment


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How to Do It

  1. Identify the emotion you're feeling.
  2. Avoid acting impulsively. 
  3. Do the opposite of what the emotion "tells" you. 
    1. For example, if you are sad, instead of being passive and isolated, stay active and with other people. 
    2. If you are angry, instead of "attacking" other people, try to listen to them and come to an agreement.
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Why it works

  • Every emotion makes us act in certain ways, and have certain thoughts. Sometimes this becomes problematic and causes us to act impulsively. This has a negative impact on our mood. 
  • Opposite action promotes self-control. It makes us act against our instinctive reactions. This develops our discipline and willpower. 
  • By not acting impulsively, we learn to recognize that sometimes we must be patient and wait for emotions to fade away.
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Time Commitment

10-30 minutes

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Suggested Frequency

2-3 times per week

As needed.

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Time of Day


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Possible Side Effects

At first, it can cause frustration, because it is difficult to resist the impulses. 

If you have a mental disorder, it's best to consult a professional.

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  • To get the best results, it can be combined with value reflection. Reflecting on your values will help you know when it is best for you to use the opposite action.
  • Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) has proven to be one of the most effective solutions to emotional problems [4].
  • Practice identifying your emotions first to get better results.
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Supporting Studies and Articles

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  1. Opposite Action Skill. https://dbt.tools/emotional_regulation/opposite-action.php
  2. Combining emotion regulation and mindfulness skills for preventing depression relapse: a randomized-controlled study. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5497384/
  3. Emotion Regulation Therapy: A Mechanism-Targeted Treatment for Disorders of Distress. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5292405/
  4. The Longitudinal Effect of Emotion Regulation Strategies on Anxiety Levels in Children and Adolescents. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6237658/
  5. Dialectical Behavior Therapy. https://depts.washington.edu/uwbrtc/about-us/dialectical-behavior-therapy/
  6. How Do Negative Emotions Impair Self-Control? A Neural Model of Negative Urgency. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4851933/
  7. Cognitive Neuroscience of Self-Regulation Failure. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3062191/
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 Happiness  Stress  Productivity  Sharpness
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