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Intermittent Explosive Disorder

Many people have trouble controlling their angry emotions, and this often leads to embarrassing or dangerous situations. In situations like this, most people usually benefit from some sort of anger management therapy. However, there are select groups of individuals who suffer from an illness called Intermittent Explosive Disorder. IED is characterized by impulsive acts of aggression, as contrasted with planned violent or aggressive acts. The aggressive episodes may take the form of “spells” or “attacks,” with symptoms beginning minutes to hours before the actual acting-out.

Quick Facts:

  • Intermittent Explosive Disorder is more prevalent in men than in women
  • Intermittent Explosive Disorder often leads to road rage and domestic abuse
  • People with Intermittent Explosive Disorder usually feel relief or pleasure after their outbursts, but also experience remorse
  • Intermittent Explosive Disorder is a type of impulse control disorder
  • Angry outbursts caused by IED usually last under and hour and are sometimes accompanied by sweating, irregular heartbeats, etc
  • Millions of Americans may fit the criteria for Intermittent Explosive Disorder

Diagnosing Intermittent Explosive Disorder

When diagnosing people with Intermittent Explosive Disorder, doctors must be very careful to not misdiagnose because the symptoms of Intermittent Explosive Disorder are easily confused with symptoms of other disorders. For example, irrational outbursts of anger that are not proportional to the provocation are associated with Intermittent Explosive Disorder, but are also often caused by Alzheimer’s, brain tumors, and drug/alcohol abuse. Thus, it is important to rule out all other potential causes for such outbursts of anger before diagnosing a person with Intermittent Explosive Disorder. Intermittent Explosive Disorder is manifested in episodes of violent anger that can end in physical abuse or destruction of property; these episodes are grossly disproportional to the action or psychosocial stress factor that provoked them. Patients who are brought in after such violent episodes are interviewed, and if their answers point to Intermittent Explosive Disorder, they are diagnosed with it.

Treating Intermittent Explosive Disorder

There are several factors that can contribute to IED; thus, there are several treatment methods. IED can be caused by low brain serotonin turnover rates, and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors have helped alleviate symptoms in some cases. A combination of behavioral therapy and regimented medicine intake has proven to be the most effective treatment for Intermittent Explosive Disorder. There is no concrete cure however, and medications can have different effects on different people. Regular therapy can help increase a patient’s awareness of their lack of impulse control and can thus aid them in curbing their outbursts, but a patient must be willing to change for such progress to be made.

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