Intermittent Explosive Disorder: What every Parent needs to know

Explosive DisorderThe sky darkens, turning an awful mix of blues, blacks, greys, greens.  First come the winds, bursts of warm and cold.  Then the thunder and lightning, bursting through the sky, rattling the windows.  Finally the rain, pelting down thick drops in sheets of water.  Tornado warnings flash bright red across the TV screen.  Time to take shelter.

If you’re from the Midwest, then weather scenes like this are commonplace, but if you have a child with Intermittent Explosive Disorder, you can probably relate to the fear of impending destruction just as well!

As described on, Intermittent Explosive Disorder is a behavior disorder characterized by brief episodes of disproportionate anger and aggression.  It typically appears in late childhood or adolescence.  A child with Intermittent Explosive Disorder simply can’t control his anger and will impulsively explode into rage with little or no cause.  Typically, children with Intermittent Explosive Disorder will have frequent anger outbursts such as tantrums, arguments, and fights.  These anger outbursts are typically severe in nature.  What sets Intermittent Explosive Disorder apart from typical tantrums or Oppositional Defiant Disorder is that these frequent anger outbursts are punctuated by less frequent, more severe outbursts that include injury to people or animals or property damage.  Intermittent Explosive Disorder greatly interferes with a child’s family life, his social relationships, and his academic performance.

Children with Intermittent Explosive Disorder have low frustration tolerance and are easily “set off” by small annoyances.  They often become physically and verbally aggressive, causing property damage or physical injury, such as breaking furniture or getting into physical fights with peers, siblings, or other family members.  Anger outbursts, or “explosions,” are usually brief and impulsive.  Children with Intermittent Explosive Disorder are typically unable to resist angry impulses and explode in a manner disproportionate to the preceding event/situation.

People with Intermittent Explosive Disorder describe the anger outbursts as feeling overcome with anger and out of control.  According to, some even experience a sensation of building tension in the head or chest that is released when they act out aggressively.

Who can be diagnosed with Intermittent Explosive Disorder? Anyone can be diagnosed with Intermittent Explosive Disorder, but children who have experienced physical or emotional trauma are at a higher likelihood of developing the disorder.  Also, children who have a close family member who has been diagnosed with Intermittent Explosive Disorder are more likely to develop the disorder themselves.

So what can parents do?

  • Children with Intermittent Explosive Disorder are at a higher risk of self-harm behaviors or suicide.  Parents should be aware of their child’s emotional triggers and be on the lookout for possible signs of self-harm or suicidal ideation.
  • Learn your child’s triggers.  While children with Intermittent Explosive Disorder are frequently set off by seemingly insignificant circumstances, there are probably triggers that you KNOW will set your child off.  Be proactive in avoiding these triggers or preparing your child for the possibility that such circumstances may occur.
  • Learn Positive Parenting skills.  If you have a child with Intermittent Explosive Disorder, you’re probably feeling like you’re at the end of your rope.  You probably don’t enjoy spending time with your child for fear of the “tornado.”

Behavior Management Coaching can help parents deal more effectively with angry, out of control, “explosive” children.  Contact us today to learn how you can better manage your child’s angry behavior and strengthen your parent-child relationship in the process!  Talk to us today.