Children with Intermittent Explosive Disorder: Symptoms, Causes and Treatment Options

Intermittent Explosive Disorder (IED) is a disorder that prompts an individual to react to a trivial incident in a very aggressive manner. Behavior such as making threats of violence, destroying property intentionally, and even attacking other people are common with this disorder. Considered a disorder that hampers impulse control, a person with IED will find it difficult to avoid causing injury, either to himself, to property, or to a person or animal. Persons afflicted with IED claim not being able to control their impulses of aggression and any type of stress or frustration makes them lose control.

For an adult to be diagnosed with IED, certain criteria must be met, but these criteria can’t be applied to children because of their differences in terms of cognitive and developmental abilities. Also, children are unable to give details about the symptoms associated with IED. Symptoms described by adults are palpitations, chest tightness, headaches, irritability, and tremors, among others. Due to this, for a child to be properly diagnosed, extended periods of time of observation is recommended.

Common Symptoms of IED
Children diagnosed with IED tend to have very low levels of tolerance for frustration and easily become aggressive with little to no provocation. Episodes can last as long as 30 minutes, and these “attacks” usually lead to exhaustion and consequently, sleepiness. Sometimes, the reactions are so violent that during an attack, a child may end up injuring himself or the people around him. In some cases, once the attack has subsided, a child may not even remember it happening while others may feel regret and sadness at the way they behaved, but are unable to understand why they became so angry.

IED should not be confused with a simple temper tantrum. A child throws a tantrum to get what he wants, but if the intended attention or object is not received, the child will stop on his own relatively quickly. In the case of IED, a child will try to let out pent-up emotions through aggressive behavior whether there is somebody there to notice the occurrence or not.

Exploring the Cause of IED
The precise cause of IED is yet to be ascertained, but blame is placed on environmental and biological factors.

Biological factors may consist of neurotransmitter dysfunction, abnormal testosterone levels, limbic system abnormalities that affect emotions, or abnormality in the frontal lobes of the brain that affect impulses.

On the other hand, environmental factors like exposure to alcohol and drugs during the prenatal stage and head trauma like infections, inflammation, and seizures may also cause IED in children.

The development of IED in children may also be caused by psychological or emotional experiences such as exposure to severe physical and mental abuse that can lead to impulse control disorder.

Although there is no known cure for intermittent explosive disorder, several treatment options can be used to reduce the attacks and control the disorder.

Therapy, such as cognitive behavior therapy and play therapy, works very well for children with IED while enrolling a kid in an anger management classes can help in making attacks less violent. Family members are also advised to go through family counseling to help them cope better with the issues involved in dealing with a child with IED.

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