Does your teens’ anger lead to explosive behavior? If your family walks on eggshells to avoid triggering an explosive, unpredictable, sometimes violent reaction from your teen, it’s possible they may be suffering with Intermittent Explosive Disorder.
Intermittent explosive disorder (IED) is a mental health disorder in which kids have short periods of intense, unexpected anger and explosive behavior. These feelings seem to come out of nowhere. They feel they have no control over their anger. IED usually shows up in late childhood or the early teen years.
Intermittent Explosive Disorder affects 1 out of every 12 teenagers, according to the Depression Alliance. IED — and its outbursts of sudden rage, anger, and frustration — can negatively impact family life, social relationships, and academic performance. Symptoms typically appear in late childhood or adolescence.
Anxiety, depression and substance abuse are more common in people diagnosed with IED. Teens with IED are also at a higher risk of harming themselves and attempting suicide.
Treating Explosive Disorder
Treatment for IED usually involves both therapy and medication.
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is used to help kids with IED learn which situations cause their episodes of rage. In CBT, they learn to recognize and manage their anger in a healthier way that makes them feel better and keeps everyone safe. A therapist will work with the child, their family and sometimes teachers to help the child avoid angry outbursts.
There are no medications specifically for IED, but a number of medications are used to help kids and teens with IED. Medications sometimes used for IED include antidepressants, anti-anxiety medications and mood regulators.
Handling Teen Anger Outbursts
Not every teen that has had an explosive outburst has IED. When your teen explodes, it is really hard for them and also for you. But there are things you can do to help your teen deal with their anger.
The challenge in helping explosive teens is keeping them safe while they learn ways to recognize anger and deal with it more constructively.
Learning what triggers your teen’s anger is an important step in helping them manage their own behavior. Every teen is different and will have different triggers. By observing your teen, you may be able to identify what triggers your child. As many parents know, if a teen thinks they will have their devices removed, many will go into a rage. This is why it’s important to have a smartphone contract in place so they understand the consequences of their actions when they break the rules.
Ways to safely express their anger:
Participate in physical activities. The impulse to do something physical when feeling angry is strong in most teens. Involvement in sports and other exercise helps in expressing anger on a regular basis.
Hit a punching bag. Teens need safe ways to get their anger out, a punching bag works well, so does hitting a pillow repeatedly, or using a foam padded bat.
Take a time-out or time-in. When anger escalates teens may need time alone to calm down and yell, cry or whatever is needed so they stay safe and others are not negatively impacted.
Get into music. Popular with most teens, music works well to help teens identify and express feelings of anger, whether through singing, dancing or playing along with songs filled with rage.
Identify triggers to anger. The better your teen can make the connection between what leads to angry outbursts, the more control they’ll have in expressing this emotion.
Creatively express angry feelings. Both writing and drawing can be used effectively by teens to express and understand anger.
When a troubled teen still isn’t able to get a handle on their anger it’s time to consider getting professional help to get to the root of their anger and learn ways to manage these feelings.