Anger is normal part of life. Most adults can process anger and work through most situations. For others, however, rage periodically leads to eruptions of abusive language and violent actions. If nothing else explains their problem, these people may be suffering from intermittent explosive disorder.
Identifying Intermittent Explosive Disorder
Intermittent explosive disorder is characterized by isolated explosive incidents, which cannot be explained in another way. An incident that points to IED occurs when a person feels an impulse of anger or aggression and then acts out by either destroying property or assaulting someone physically or verbally.
The person’s actions must be decidedly out of line with any circumstances that may have provoked them. The underlying cause cannot be some other mental disorder, such as borderline or antisocial personality disorder or dementia, which is also associated with violent outbursts. The incidents must also not have been influenced by drugs or alcohol in order to point to IED. Clinicians will not usually make a diagnosis of IED unless incidents like this have occurred at least three times.
Causes of IED
There is no clearly proven cause of intermittent explosive disorder. Patterns relating to who develops this problem and the therapies that help treat it appear to give some clues about the way IED develops.
A majority of people with IED was frequently exposed to angry behavior at home when they were children. This pattern suggests that the behavior was learned at a young age. There may even be a genetic component that accounts for the concentration of IED in families.
Antidepressants that affect the neurotransmitter serotonin can help relieve symptoms of IED. This finding indicates that serotonin plays a role in the disorder as well.
Intermittent Explosive Disorder and Related Problems
Alcohol abuse is extra common among people with intermittent explosive disorder. They tend to be especially sensitive to the effects of alcohol. Self-medication may even be the goal for some IED sufferers who drink. Unfortunately, alcohol and other drugs make the problem worse rather than better.
Depression and anxiety are also very common among those suffering from IED. In fact, the great majority of people who have IED also suffer from depression, anxiety or substance abuse.
Complications of Intermittent Explosive Disorder
IED’s short episodes of anger can leave a big mark on people’s lives. Any activity that requires getting along with other people can get derailed by IED. Marriages, jobs, friendships and education can all be damaged by intermittent explosive disorder. Conflicts that occur during episodes can even lead to legal problems or physical injuries.
Treatment for Intermittent Explosive Disorder and Alcohol Abuse
There are a number of effective treatment options sufferers of IED can pursue with professional help. In addition to antidepressants, anti-anxiety meds like benzodiazepines, and mood-stabilizing drugs can be helpful. Benzodiazepines, however, present problems when used of a long period of time. Relaxation techniques can also be learned and applied to stressful situations.
The most effective treatment for intermittent explosive disorder, however, may be achieved through therapy sessions. Clinicians can help people learn new ways to face stressful situations. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can be used to establish new thought patterns that lead away from anger. Although earlier responses can never be “un-learned”, new patterns can be learned that are more constructive.
Intermittent Explosive Disorder Treatment
If you or someone close to you has any of the signs of intermittent explosive disorder, please call our 24 hour helpline to learn more about IED and other impulse control disorders. We can provide information on IED treatment as well as alcohol rehab advice if substance abuse id a co-occurring issue. The call is toll-free.