Vulnerability Factors

Written by: Brittany Glaser, M.A., M.Div.
Vulnerability Factors

All of us have times where we react differently than others. The same thing can happen one day, and I react very differently than I would to that thing on another day.

Have you ever caught yourself wondering, “why was I so snappy about that” or “why did that make me so anxious”? If you have, then there might be something we call “vulnerability factors “involved.

What is a vulnerability factor?
Vulnerability factors is a term used in DBT (dialectical behavior therapy) that refers to things that can make us more likely to react more emotionally, impulsively, or hyper-logically than we would otherwise. If you have ever experienced “hanger” then you have experienced a vulnerability factor; without eating, you are more likely to get irritated than otherwise. Vulnerability factors can include factors like food, sleep, exercise, medication management, substance use, past experiences, stress levels, and others. Understanding our vulnerability factors can allow us to preemptively cope and set ourselves up to manage our emotions and impulses more effectively.

What can I do?
One of my favorite ways to address common vulnerabilities is the DBT PLEASE skill. PLEASE is an acronym that stands for treat Physical iLlness, balance Eating, Avoid mood-altering substances, balance Sleep, and get Exercise.

Treating physical illness includes going to the doctor when needed and taking medication as prescribed.

Balance eating does not refer to a diet or restriction; it means eating food intuitively that is nutritious and sustaining for your body.

Avoid mood-altering substances can directly refer to substance use as well as things like sugar or caffeine that can impact emotions.

Balance sleep refers to adhering to sleep hygiene practices to get consistent sleep that is within the 7-9 hour range.

Getting exercise recommends moving your body for 30 minutes a day in some way or another.

Now what?
If it is overwhelming to read this list of skills, then start with one and break it into manageable pieces. You do not have to do all things at once! One change can start to make you less emotionally vulnerable and more balanced.

If you have questions about this skill or DBT in general, feel free to email me at or call our front office to set up a DBT assessment at 678-893-5300.