Categories: EmotionsLifestyle

Understanding Intermittent Explosive Disorder

We all have that person in our lives. He has a reputation for exhibiting extremely aggressive and violent behavior. She is infamous for her unpredictable angry verbal outbursts in which she reacts grossly out of proportion to every situation.

They are notorious for perpetuating domestic abuse, road rage and destroying valuable objects. Their explosive outbursts know no place or circumstance.

They could be your parent, sibling or close friend. That person could also be you; causing those around you significant distress, negatively affecting your relationships in school and at work; and in extreme cases, incurring legal and financial consequences.

Most times, these violent behaviors are not intentional; they are rather born out of a chronic disorder that can span for years.

This disorder is called the Intermittent Explosive disorder; an impulse-control disorder which according to Valley Behavioral is characterized by sudden episodes of unwarranted anger.

The disorder is typified by hostility, impulsivity, and recurrent aggressive outbursts. People with IED essentially “explode” into a rage despite a lack of apparent provocation or reason and it can feel frightening for those living with it to be out of control to such a degree.

Causes of Intermittent Explosive Disorder

Intermittent Explosive Disorder is more common in young adults that in Older Adults. In most cases, it begins in childhood; after the age of six.

It is also very likely to occur in males under the age of 40. The direct cause of this disorder is unknown. However, some environmental and biological factors are likely to be responsible for it.

Environmental Factor

Children who grew up in households with high tension, especially where explosive behavior and physical abuse were common are more likely to have Intermittent Explosive Disorder as they grow older.

This includes children who have experienced war, child abuse and domestic violence. At a stage where they have a difficult time identifying and understanding their anger, this disorder is easily nurtured in them and begins to manifest as they grow up.

Biological Factor

In some cases, there is a genetic component that causes the disorder to be passed on from parent to child.

Neurological Factor

Medical scientists have also revealed that some cases of Intermittent Explosive Disorder show a significant difference in the structure, function and chemistry of the brain in people with this disorder compared to people who don’t have the disorder. According to a research, repeated impulsive and aggressive behavior is associated with low serotonin levels in the brain.

Mayo Clinic also suggests that people who have antisocial personality disorder, borderline personality disorder or other disorders that include disruptive behaviors, such as attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) also have an increased risk of having intermittent explosive disorder.

Generally, this disorder usually stems from the root of something. However, while the major cause of Intermittent Explosive disorder remains elusive, it is important to identify its signs and symptoms as well as to take correct measures by getting professional help.

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Signs and Symptoms of Intermittent Explosive Disorder

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, there are several symptoms of Intermittent Explosive disorder. Amongst these are;

  • Unprovoked and unjustified angry outbursts.
  • Physical or verbal aggression.
  • An angered response that is more excessive than what triggered it.
  • Outbursts that occur at least twice weekly for several months.

These occur suddenly with little or no warning and are usually short lived, in most cases, not more than 30 minutes.

According to Mayo Clinic, These symptoms may occur quite frequently or may be separated by weeks or months of nonaggression. People living with Intermittent Explosive Disorder are most times irritable, impulsive, aggressive or chronically angry most of the time.

Mayo Clinic explains that aggressive episodes may be preceded or accompanied by: rage, irritability, increased energy, racing thoughts, tingling, tremors, palpitations and chest tightness.

On the other extreme, explosive verbal and behavioral outbursts may include temper tantrums, tirades and heated arguments, shouting, slapping, shoving or pushing, physical fights, property damage and threatening or assaulting people or animals.

People with this disorder feel a sense of relief or tiredness later accompanied by feelings of remorse after each episode.

Treatment of Intermittent Explosive Disorder

There are a variety of treatment options for those who have Intermittent Explosive Disorder, the most common of which is in form of medication.

Medications are administered to help lower impulsivity and raise one’s mood. For example, It is psychologically believed that if someone is happy and feeling less impulsive, they are less likely to have explosive outbursts or to respond with anger or rage.

With medication, people with this disorder can take control of their minds and bodies and live a healthier life.

As effective as medication is however, they are very likely to mask the root cause of the problem. For this reason, therapy is recommended.

This helps to identify all the potential causes of the disorder as well as to proffer coping skills in times of rage.

Other treatments such as Anger Management and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy are also available to establish the presence of the anger and help to dissolve it.

A research conducted in 2008 revealed that 12 weeks of individual or group Cognitive Behavioral Therapy reduced Intermittent Explosive Disorder symptoms including aggression, anger control, and hostility. This was true both during treatment and after three months.

In addition, change in environment, breathing exercises and stress management techniques have been proven to help people with Intermittent Explosive Disorder cope with their condition.

Prevention is likely beyond a person’s control unless they get treatment from a professional. If left untreated, Intermittent Explosive Disorder can lead the host to having problems with alcohol and other substance use, violence in relationships, the legal system and long term damages to relationships with family and friends.

Physical health problems such as high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease and stroke, ulcers, and chronic pain may also manifest in the long run.

If you recognize any of the symptoms of Intermittent Explosive Disorder, you should talk to your doctor about treatment options or ask to be referred to a mental health professional.

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Wardah Abbas

Wardah Abbas is a writer and journalist with over six years experience. She writes on Lifestyle, Social Justice and Mental health.

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