Intermittent Explosive Disorder (IED) may not be as widely known as obsessive compulsive disorder, PTSD, and bipolar disorder, but it is just as destructive – to other people and yourself, properties, relationships, careers and studies. Today, about 16 million Americans, or 7% of the adult population, experience IED at some point in their lives.
A Brief Look into IED
An individual with IED exhibits excessive aggression or anger which is grossly disproportionate to the situation at hand. It’s a pattern that occurs at regular intervals; the outburst is unplanned; and, the aggression may be verbal or physical, or both. After an episode, which typically does not go beyond 30 minutes, a feeling of gratification follows, but there is no remorse for the behavior.
The causes of IED are organic (abnormality or damage to the brain,) genetic, environmental or a combination of any. Most individuals diagnosed with IED grew up in a household where display of aggressive behavior was frequent. Teens and young adults have more frequent episodes than the older people and the disorder is more common in men than in women.
Do You Have IED?
Unfortunately, people with IED rarely admit to it. To them, it’s simply a reaction to a provocation, and the blame lies in the other person. What about you? Do you fly into a monumental rage over a trivial issue? Do you blame others for provoking you into an unreasonably furious reaction? During your outburst, do you engage in verbal abuse, threaten or go on a wreaking spree? Do you feel tense, have palpitations or chest tightness? Do these episodes occur on a regular basis?
If you honestly accept that you behave in the same manner, consult a mental health professional and seek treatment. IED can lead to divorce, soured relationships, job loss, expulsion from school, financial troubles or jail time. The DSM 5 states that IED is most often provoked by someone close – a spouse, family member or friend, and it is not premeditated. The individual does not seek to gain money or power.
You can help prevent the occurrence of rage incidents by applying these coping techniques.
Tips for Getting a Grip on your Anger
Recognize your emotional reactions.
When you feel your aggression rising, leave immediately before you blow up. Resist the temptation to say something or talk back because once you get started, you will lose control of your actions. If you record your rage episodes and find that they occur in certain places, like a sports event or a bar, stay away from those places.
Change your way of thinking.
With IED, you lose control over your impulse when faced with a situation that you view as a challenge. Accepting this, practice a shift of mindset by viewing the person and situation in a positive light. Listen to what is being said or done, take an objective point of view and have reasonable expectations.
You’ll be surprised at how calmness and sensible dialogue can diffuse your developing rage and prevent an escalation of emotions.
Engage in regular stress-reducing practices such as meditation and yoga.
Recent studies on mind-body activities like yoga, meditation and tai-chi have found that their beneficial effects go beyond the psychological. They also affect your genes and DNA processes in a way that health and well-being are improved. Join a group for support and continue to do the practice daily in the privacy of your home.
These practices help you find your center, and develop detachment and equanimity. They make you less reactive to situational stressors, and improve your control over emotions.
Watch what you eat.
Your food intake contributes a lot to your well-being. According to research, what you eat plays a role in raising your level of aggression. Junk food and foods with high trans fatty acids (cakes, cookies, frozen pizza, fast food, etc.) increase irritability and aggressive behavior. While high intake of sugar has the same effect, low sugar level as a result of hunger can also make you easily angry.
Following the teachings of Eastern medicine from India and China, avoid tomatoes, eggplants and greasy foods. They radiate heat inside the body that increases anger.
Foods that help you minimize IED episodes are fruits and vegetables in their most natural form; fish, eggs and poultry that promote the release of dopamine, the feel-good hormone; and, foods rich in magnesium (almonds, spinach) to help you sleep soundly.
Avoid alcohol, tobacco and recreational drugs.
An individual with IED is five times at greater risk of abusing the intake and use of alcohol, marijuana, cocaine, and other recreational drugs. These are mood-altering substances and under their influence, violent tendencies and rage in IED is markedly raised.