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Intermittent Explosive Disorder

What is Intermittent Explosive Disorder (Difficulty Managing Anger)?
Although anger is a natural emotion and healthy when properly managed, anger can result in havoc and destruction leading to problems with relationships, work, family, friends and overall quality of life when out of control. When a person cannot control anger, they may get into violent or dangerous situations (i.e. driving recklessly or angry outbursts on the job), which may result in legal, employment, and relationship turmoil. Excessive anger can increase stress-related health problems such as coronary heart disease, insomnia, digestive problems, and headaches. Anger is often accompanied by additional problems as people with severe anger issues often experience depression, anxiety, or alcohol and drug problems. The closest thing to a formal diagnosis for anger alone is Intermittent Explosive Disorder (IED), defined as episodes of heightened angry emotions and/or aggression against people or property out of proportion to the situation.

How Prevalent is Intermittent Explosive Disorder?
In 2006, studies at Harvard University and the University of Chicago estimated that one in 20 Americans may fit the criteria for IED. Several surveys have indicated that slightly more than one in four people worry about how angry they become at times. Anger problems typically surface in adolescence and often continue into adulthood.

What Causes Intermittent Explosive Disorder?
Anger may be triggered by a variety of situations. An individual may become angry at another person (family member or coworker) or event (traffic or computer problems); however, in most cases excessive anger is rooted in deeper personal problems or painful memories from the past. Sometimes anger and frustration are the result of problems in our lives that we cannot escape and leave us feeling helpless and isolated. Sometimes anger is a “cover-up” for unexpressed underlying fear or intense sadness.

How Do I Know if I Need Help?
Anger is a completely normal, usually healthy, human emotion. But when it gets out of control and turns destructive, it can lead to problems at work, in personal relationships, and in the overall quality of life. Sometimes people with significant anger problems become concerned about their anger and its consequences and realize that they must go for help.  However, more typically others (family, boss) will express concern regarding the person’s anger outbursts. 

What Are Some of the Signs and Symptoms of Intermittent Explosive Disorder?
People diagnosed with IED tend to display repeated episodes of aggressive, violent behavior, or highly emotionally angry outbursts.  These aggressive, violent reactions are often considered “over the top” in relation to the situation. Often people who have this problem feel remorseful after they act out in an aggressive way, but this remorse does not prevent them from becoming overly angry or aggressive in the future. IED is more common in men, but may also occur in females. When anger becomes frequent, disproportionate to the situation, aggressive, harmful or violent, you may have IED or excessive anger.  

Getting the Help You Need
A clinical consultation with a licensed mental health professional is necessary in determining whether a person has the diagnosis of IED. In addition, there are psychological tests that can provide specific information on how you manage anger, which may help in deciding the best course of treatment for you. Learning to manage out of control anger often requires additional help that can be provided by the mental help professionals at OHEL. At OHEL, we provide a variety of treatment options, including psychotherapy, psychiatric consultation and medication management, if necessary.  Improved communication, relaxation strategies, learning anger triggers, and finding healthier ways to manage emotions can result in improved anger control and quality of life. 

Remember:   at OHEL, we are only a phone call or a click away from your road to recovery.

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