Intermittent explosive disorder: causes and symptoms

Our emotional state is an area of ​​our psychological life that is often revealed as something beyond our control. This has positive consequences, others negative and some related to risks when certain types of mental disorders occur.

For example, thanks to feelings and emotions, we can experience all kinds of moments intensely, quickly learn the positive and negative consequences of our actions and even achieve better communication with others, but sometimes certain biological alterations can make our reactions emotional. excessive or even equal. of the place.

Intermittent explosive disorder (TEI) is a clear example.While in these cases, the person diagnosed with this type of disorder sees their quality of life significantly limited by this mental disorder.

    What is Intermittent Explosive Disorder?

    Along with pyromania, trichotillomania, gambling disorders, and many other disorders, Intermittent Explosive Disorder is part of what the DSM-V diagnostic manual calls Impulse Control Disorders. Counted and debated, it is characterized by being expressed by sudden and relatively brief outbursts of violence, Triggered by low-frustrating or stressful situations that cannot be explained by substance use or injury.

    People with TEI have a very low frustration threshold and any embarrassment, no matter how small, makes them suddenly angry, even seconds before they are in a very good mood and laughing. During these short episodes of anger, which usually do not last longer than an hour, the person partially or totally loses control over their behavior and can often physically or verbally assault those in the vicinity.

    Once the outburst of rage has passed, people with intermittent explosive disorder tend to realize for themselves that what they have done has been harmful to others and they will often feel guilty.


    Symptoms of Intermittent Explosive Disorder vary slightly depending on the diagnostic manual used as a reference, but are primarily based on the appearance of short bursts of anger, expressed by physical or verbal abuse, Which are disproportionate to the magnitude of their causes and lead to loss of control.

    Because anger arises without premeditation, it often expresses itself by interrupting a positive mood, and violence has no instrumental purpose. The person with the symptoms of Intermittent Explosive Disorder does not aspire to achieve goals through aggression, but these are the result of their altered mood, which cannot be attributed to substance use or existence. other disorders or parts of disorders that are distorted or damaged. your nervous system.

    like that, people with TEI can get angry within seconds by interpreting that someone is watching them too much, Or see that a product they ordered from a store is sold out, or inadvertently break an item. Outbursts of anger can occur in a wide variety of situations, but they all have one thing in common: they would not be a source of intense anger for the vast majority of the population.

    As with all disorders, only certain mental health professionals can diagnose Intermittent Explosive Disorder, almost always using a DSM manual.

    Other similar disorders

    TEI is closely linked to bipolar disorder, which is thought to be at an early stage. In bipolar disorder, times of mania and euphoria can resemble the burst of intense emotions that occur in intermittent explosive disorder.

    However, the difference between the two types of modifications is basically that in intermittent explosive disorder, explosions of fury may appear at any timeWhile in bipolar disorder, these are linked to episodes of mania or depression, times in which the mood was previously altered.

    As for the antisocial personality disorder, in which outbreaks of violence are also common, in these cases it performs an instrumental function, so that a specific goal can be identified, while in the TEI there is no d clear purpose beyond expressing the agitation and frustration the person finds himself in.

    Treatment of intermittent explosive disorder

    Since this is a mental disorder that cannot be linked to drugs or injury, but has to do with how neural networks interact with each other and with environmental stimuli, TEI cannot have to intervene on a single specific factor, As if to heal a wound. Therefore, in these cases, the intervention is usually a combination of cognitive behavioral therapy and the administration of psychotropic drugs (usually mood stabilizers and / or antidepressants).

    Psychotherapy is often very helpful in recognizing the early manifestations of outbursts of anger, executing plans to increase the level of control over behavior and preventing others from being hurt, and developing coping strategies against guilt and self-harm. feeling of sadness. In this way, patients learn to follow certain protocols when they begin to notice the first symptoms of a seizure induced by Intermittent Explosive Disorder, and learn to regulate their behavior and ideas about what is happening so that this is reduced. . other.

    Bibliographical references:

    • Beck, AT and Freeman, A. (1995). Cognitive therapy for personality disorders. Barcelona: Paidós.
    • Goodman, HH (ed.). (1987). General psychiatry. Mexico: the modern manual. (Orig. 1984).
    • Jaspers, K. (1946/1993). General psychopathology. Mexico: FCE.

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