Anger is a healthy emotion. Our bodies are designed to get angry, and express that anger in a positive and constructive way. However, because severe anger can lead to aggression and violence, we must learn to control it. Many of us had parents who taught us how to express anger properly. For individuals who were not that fortunate, unhealthy patterns may have developed, such as burying anger below the surface, or lashing out in a rage. For those who cannot control their anger, counseling services are available to help them learn to control and use it in a positive way.
Intermittent Explosive Disorder is a condition characterized by occasional, sudden bursts of intense anger or violent behavior which are out of proportion to the situation one is experiencing. Individuals with this condition have a pattern of responding to routine life challenges with acute rage, and can even demonstrate violent or criminal behavior. These outbursts often generate collateral consequences for the individual, including damaged relationships, loss of employment, or legal problems.
People with IED suffer from sudden bursts of anger that can last for up to 30 minutes or so. These outbursts are often unprovoked, with no warning, and can occur frequently or with months of inactivity in between. In between these outbursts, less aggressive outbursts may occur, or general displays of irritability, anger, or aggressive or impulsive behavior.
The outbursts themselves can include irritability, rage, shouting or tirades, threats, heated arguments, verbal or physical aggression toward people, or destruction of property. The individual may experience racing thoughts, increased energy, tremors, heart palpitations or chest tightness. After experiencing an episode, it is common for the individual to feel relief. Later, they may feel embarrassment, remorse or regret.
Scientists are uncertain as to the cause of IED, but there are a few likely catalysts. If the child grew up in a hostile or dysfunctional environment, they might easily have learned aggressive behavior as a way of responding to problems. This is especially true when such exposure occurred at an early age. Also, some children may be genetically predisposed to aggressive behavior. And some people with IED may have significant differences in brain structure and chemistry from those who do not have it.
Certain mental health conditions are positively correlated with IED. Antisocial personality disorder is characterized by an unwillingness to conform to the laws of the land or to social norms, and it can lead to uncontrolled anger. So can borderline personality disorder, or attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Also, children who experience abuse or multiple traumatic events are at greater risk of developing intermittent explosive disorder.
If a person with intermittent explosive disorder fails to seek treatment for their condition, it can become worse. As these individuals find themselves in an increasing number of volatile situations, their outbursts can become worse. Eventually, any of the following situations can occur:
Damaged Relationships: Untreated IED can cause the people closest to the individual to abandon them, perhaps for their own safety, or because they may not understand that the individual has a problem.
Loss of Employment or Schooling: It is not uncommon for those with IED to be fired or kicked out of school (or other groups).
Health Problems: Those who struggle with rage are at a higher risk of high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, ulcers, and other issues. They also can become injured or even killed if they find themselves in a violent situation.
Mental Health Issues and Substance Abuse: People with IED can be at a greater risk of anxiety or depression. They also frequently turn to drugs or alcohol to moderate their mood or behavior.
Suicide: People with IED can sometimes turn to self-harm out of an inability to control their behavior, or out of a fear of harming someone else.
The first step in controlling IED is an accurate diagnosis. A physician conducts a physical exam, and a mental health professional performs a detailed psychological evaluation. Using the criteria in the DSM-5, he or she will diagnose an individual with IED, if they indeed have it.
After diagnosing the patient, the therapist will help them to explore their past and identify their triggers. This will enable the patient to learn how to respond to them in a new way. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a key strategy, as it will enable the patient to think before responding. The patient will also learn various relaxation techniques to help them manage their mood.
Depending on the individual, certain types of medication may help with treatment of IED. Antidepressants are preferred, specifically SSRIs. Anticonvulsant mood stabilizers are another option.
The therapist can provide help or training, but at the end of the day, it is up to the individual to control his or her own behavior. The therapist can point the patient in the direction of resources that can enable them to learn new habits. The first step should be to get free from drugs and alcohol, toxic relationships, destructive behavior, or situations that present the patient with too many triggers. After that, the individual must develop their own plan of action, get plenty of sleep and exercise, and practice any anger management techniques they may have learned in therapy or elsewhere.
Learning to control anger is all about taking a moment to think about what one is feeling and how to respond to it. We cannot always control our emotions. But we can learn why we feel the way we do, and make better choices. Over time, those new actions should turn into new habits. A good therapist provides a reasoned approach to empowering patients to think before taking action, so that emotions don’t control them. The professionals at Essential Care NJ offer a variety of strategies for helping our patients accomplish this.
Guided by our core values of fairness, integrity, and honesty, we pursue our purpose of providing accessible, holistic, patient-centered care to enable our patients to lead stress-free, healthy lives. Essential Care NJ health care professionals always place your well-being and peace of mind as our number one priority.
Perhaps you have noticed a pattern of uncontrolled anger that is making life difficult for you or those around you. Or perhaps others have spoken to you about the need for anger management services. Or maybe a judge has ordered you to seek counseling services to control your anger. In any case, you can count on the professionals at Essential Care NJ to provide the help you need. Use the search tool on this website to locate the Essential Care NJ office nearest you, and call us to set up an appointment. Once you learn how to identify your triggers and respond to them consciously, you’ll be a whole lot happier, and so will those around you.