Angry Much? 11 Best Ways to Treat Intermittent Explosive Disorder


Do you know anyone who just seems to be angry all the time? Do you have a problem with anger? It might be something more than frustration at a person or situation. If it seems like someone becomes much angrier or outraged than makes sense for a given situation, they may have Intermittent Explosive Disorder (IED).

Intermittent Explosive Disorder is a mental health condition that can cause a lot of problems. Both for the person who has it, and the people around them. The disorder usually starts in children and adolescents but can affect people their whole lives. It may still be present in older people. The outbursts, however, may not be as severe as when they were young.

How to Recognize Intermittent Explosive Disorder

People with IED may just think that it’s their personality to become angry easily. That doesn’t help if you’re the one with the problem and your anger is causing your relationships to fall apart.

Arguing is a symptom of Intermittent Explosive Disorder

Think about whether you or your loved one may have something more.  You might want to look for some of the warning signs. IED symptoms include:

  • Outbursts that cause physical or emotional harm that seem way too much anger compared to what is going on
  • The anger seems to come out of nowhere, with little to no warning
  • The rage may appear in multiple different forms – typical of what you think of as an angry person:
    • Shouting
    • Fighting
    • Destroying some type of property
    • Threats – either directed to people or animals
    • Arguing
    • A temper tantrum (more in younger people)
    • Road rage
  • Episodes last around half an hour or less
  • After the episode is over, you may feel a sense of relief. Or you may just feel tired
  • People may be irritable, impulsive or just in a bad mood a lot of the other time

Before you think someone has Intermittent Explosive Disorder PTSD, you’d want to think about whether they have something else first. The anger may be due to something else like substance abuse, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD or ADHD).

What Causes Intermittent Explosive Disorder?

In order to prevent or treat IED, it is important to understand what might be behind it. This isn’t just a sickness you catch from another person. The exact cause is unknown, although Doctors have been able to see some trends.

Family dynamics can play a large role. If someone grows up in a home where parents are angry and fighting all the time, they have a higher chance of showing the same behavior later on. Perhaps growing up in this kind of household means genetics may play some kind of role. If your parents are angry people, you might be the same way. Then again, it sure doesn’t help if that what you experienced as a child.

Yelling at your kids may trigger Intermittent Explosive Disorder in them.

It follows that if you were abused as a kid – either physically or sexually – you have a higher risk of experiencing Intermittent Explosive Disorder. Any kind of traumatic event may also trigger IED for you.

Brain injuries or disruption of certain chemicals in the brain may also contribute. Other psychological conditions such as PTSD, Bipolar Disorder or traumatic brain injuries may also raise your chances of having IED as well.

Prevention of Intermittent Explosive Disorder

By the time someone is elderly, it may be too late to ‘prevent’ IED. That doesn’t mean it’s not too late to:

  1. Use the following prevention techniques to assist in treating their disorder
  2. Help their children or grandchildren prevent the problem 

Prevention may not mean that you prevent it completely either. Using these techniques may ‘prevent’ the severity of your episodes. This affliction has the potential to ruin your relationships, cause significant harm to yourself or your loved ones, create financial burdens on your family or lead to other disorders such as depression. It’s worth minimizing to the max extent possible.

To make these techniques even more effective, you might want to consult with a professional. That doesn’t mean, though, that you can’t try them on your own as well.

The big idea is to do things that should help to minimize your anger. If you have some specific ways to calm yourself down, we’d love to hear about them in the comments below. Relaxation techniques will decrease the intensity of the episodes. It may also reduce the frequency.

Prevention Techniques:

  • Deep breathing to improve your mood– This video may give you some good ideas:
  • Yoga or meditation– Both exercises help reduce stress, which is associated with anger. According to the website Thrive Global:

“Anger and stress feed off each other. When you feel relaxed, you allow little things to happen. But as you feel the pressure piling on your shoulders, the tendency is to lash out your feelings at one point or another. Thankfully, yoga and meditation hold the key to a life with less anger and more peace. Sometimes, it feels as if you have no control over your emotions but being more aware of your inner self-makes it easier to change your behavior and how your mind works.”

  • Think about a situation differently– Psychologists call a form of this Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). In CBT, a Doctor will have you try to change bad thoughts such as when you make situations seem worse than they are. Instead they try to have you think more rationally. Sort of think “What’s the worst thing that could happen here?” Then it’s harder to fly off the handle. Try to think through the situation and what you can do to resolve it peacefully and rationally.
Listening will help stop Intermittent Explosive Disorder
  • Listen. Maybe you can feel the anger welling up inside you. The outbursts from Intermittent Explosive Disorder will probably not allow you to listen to the other person. Can you force yourself to just be quiet and listen to the other person? 

Listening will help the other person to calm down as well, if needed. In addition, it gives you more time to think about the situation rationally.

  • Solve the Problem– Use the last two techniques to help with this one. It may make sense to take what you thought about the situation and what you heard from the other party to come up with a solution. Thinking through the situation will also help dissipate the anger.
  • Get out of the situation – Walking away from the situation will help take your mind off it. Take a walk, a drive, or run some errands. Try not to think about what is going on. Take some time to cool off.
  • Stay away from drugs or alcohol – Any kind of mood-altering substances are only going to exaggerate your anger. Staying away from them in any area where there is potential conflict is a really good idea.

Treatments for Intermittent Explosive Disorder

Once you have been diagnosed with IED, you may want to seek professional help. Here are some of the treatments used according to the Harvard Mental Health Letter:

A Professional can help with Intermittent Explosive Disorder
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy– Although we mentioned CBT above, we emphasize it down here in a professional setting. The therapy is most effective when you work with a professional to apply it.
  • Dialectical Behavioral Therapy– Originally developed to help people with Borderline Personality Disorder, Dialectical Behavioral Therapy(DBT) is a subset of CBT. There is a difference between CBT and DBT. DBT teaches people to acknowledge they have destructive emotions and then gives them skills to manage those emotions. Those skills include:
    • Emotion Regulation
    • Tolerance of Distress
    • Interpersonal Relationships
    • Meditation
  • Medications– Probably not the best way to treat Intermittent Explosive Disorder. However, people have achieved results with certain drugs. According to Harvard Medical School, some drugs that can be effective include the usual psychological cocktails. Some classes of drugs include antidepressants, anticonvulsants, Anti-anxiety drugs and mood stabilizers. Many of these drugs are common in seniors as well. Remember that these drugs have lots of side effects!
  • Group Therapy – Cognitive Behavioral Therapy may be more effective in a group setting. Learning to interact with others. Seeing the behavior in others and feeling the peer pressure may help people control their emotions better.

Even if someone in your family is not officially diagnosed with Intermittent Explosive Disorder, they can still have trouble controlling their anger. If you think it is more than it should be, maybe it’s time for that person to seek some help? We also have another post that helps families resolve difficulties.

We know many excellent behavioral health professionals. If you would like some recommendations, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us. Use the contact form on the front page of our website, emailus, or call us at 623-295-9890.

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From Pilot to Paradise: Meet Hal Cranmer!

From Pilot to Paradise: Meet Hal Cranmer!

Mr. Cranmer went from Air Force Special Operations Pilot to Airline Pilot to running a multimillion dollar manufacturing plant after 9/11 ended his flying career. Now he is bringing his business expertise to his true passion - taking care of seniors in his 'A Paradise for Parents' assisted living homes in Surprise and Goodyear, AZ. Read Hal's crazy career story, 'From Air Force Pilot to Assisted Living Owner'. Click the button to send Hal a message!

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