Intermittent Explosive Disorder

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What is Intermittent Explosive Disorder?

Intermittent explosive disorder is a mental health condition that involves sudden outbursts of violent, aggressive, and explosive behavior. These outbursts occur repeatedly and seemingly randomly. When a person has intermittent explosive disorder, their angry or aggressive reaction is out of proportion to the situation or circumstances. This can be something along the lines of flying into a rage because something was moved in the kitchen. Road rage sometimes can be attributed to intermittent explosive disorder.

When a person suffers from intermittent explosive disorder, their angry and violent reactions can cause serious harm to themselves or others as well, both in physical and mental/emotional ways. Intermittent explosive disorder is most common in people going through adolescence as well as young adults in their 20s and 30s. It is much less common in adults over the age of 40.

Genetics plays a big role in whether or not a person develops intermittent explosive disorder as can environment. Being related to or growing up with someone with the condition can lead to the development of intermittent explosive disorder. Unbalanced brain chemistry can also contribute.

What are the Symptoms of Intermittent Explosive Disorder?

Symptoms of intermittent explosive disorder involve becoming irrationally angry about small things and seemingly out of nowhere. The person may be easily irritable as well.

Some of the symptoms of an aggressive outburst include tremors, shaking, chest tightness, repaid breathing, rage, and a racing mind. To an outside party, symptoms or signs may include a quick temper, physical and verbal fighting out of nowhere, temper tantrums, and sudden rage.

Intermittent Explosive Disorder Causes

Experts believe that intermittent explosive disorder is caused by several biological and environmental factors rather than one specific cause.

Firstly, it appears that our brain chemistry plays a role. Chemicals in the brain called neurotransmitters are responsible for communicating messages around the brain. One particular neurotransmitter called serotonin plays a major role in our mood. It’s thought that people with intermittent explosive disorder have abnormal serotonin levels, which could influence sudden outbursts of anger.

People with intermittent explosive disorder often grew up in environments where explosive outbursts were common. This means that certain behaviors exhibited with the disorder may have been learned at an early age. It’s also common for people with intermittent explosive disorder to have close family members with the same disorder. This makes it difficult to know whether inherited, genetic traits are responsible for the disorder, or learned behaviors. Most likely is that it’s a combination of both.

How is Intermittent Explosive Disorder Treated?

Psychological and psychiatric therapies can help a person with intermittent explosive disorder to get a better understanding of the root cause of their bouts of anger and rage. Sometimes, suppressed emotions or other psychiatric disorders may cause the outbursts and treatment can help a person to better deal with the situation.

Coping techniques and mechanisms can also help with these feelings of anger and rage to prevent them in the future. Psychiatric drugs and medications may also be useful in the treatment of the condition.

Intermittent Explosive Disorder Prevention

It may not be possible to prevent intermittent explosive disorder completely, but it may be possible to prevent explosive behavior with treatment and self-help strategies.

Relaxation techniques such as deep breathing and meditation may help you to maintain calm during stressful periods or situations. Therapy may help you find methods to help you cope with stressful or frustrating situations which would usually trigger explosive responses. Plus, it might help to restructure your way of thinking in order that you can rationalize situations before exhibiting explosive behavior.

Alcohol and recreational drugs can often worsen symptoms of intermittent explosive disorder because they dramatically alter our mood. By avoiding these substances, you may find that explosive episodes become less common.

Try to leave situations or environments which typically upset you rather than staying in them. Sometimes it can help to schedule regular time away from others to get some breathing space from stressful environments. This may be particularly important if you have a situation coming up in future that you know is likely to be tough to cope with.

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Last Reviewed:
September 21, 2016
Last Updated:
March 07, 2018