Intermittent Explosive Disorder

In recent correspondence a friend told of how two usually civil friends erupted in a “cat fight” at their bridge club.

Later came the story of two persons who verbally engaged in egregious behavior at a meeting of their civic club.

Then came the question, “What is going on? Is there an epidemic of some sort of “people rage’ like “road rage’?” The answer is “yes.”

That same day I read an article originating in New Orleans regarding a diagnostic term getting increased use there. It is “Intermittent Explosive Disorder” (IED). It is used to describe normally compatible persons who, out of character, suddenly become explode. The aggression may be physical but is most often verbal.

It is caused by undue stress. In the area impacted by Hurricane Katrina such stress is common. It has resulted in increased incidents of explosive conduct by rational people.

Susan Howell is a professor at the University of New Orleans and a reputable pollster. Throughout March and April she and her staff interviewed 470 people in and around New Orleans. They found people in the area are having trouble sleeping. Nearly 2/3 say they are stressed over what is going to happen in the next few years. Twenty percent say they feel tired, irritable, sad, that they have difficulty concentrating and that everything is an effort. Summarily those are signs of stress.

At best the poll is skewed. The pollsters used conventional phone lines and many of the residents hardest hit still don’t have phone service. Had they been included the depression rate would have likely been considerably higher.

Our entire culture is stressed. Social, economic, business, political, and family pressures are at an all time high nationally. Those who are “news junkies” don’t help themselves in that the accumulative effect of events not directly involving them bring pressure on them.

Being made aware of this condition might well cause a reader to recall a recent incident where they nearly boiled over. If so it is good to realize this and pre-prepare for such a moment concluding in advance the proper response when next tempted to erupt. Plan a cooling down attitude and a positive reaction. A predetermined rational response to the conditions that might precipitate aggression can mentally help control potential rage.

It is also wise to realize other persons are experiencing similar pressures and therefore avoid a tendency toward retaliation. Tit-for-tat responses produce road rage. You never know what is going on in the life of the other person. You can be the “ice man or woman” to help chill out a potentially explosive situation. It takes character to “walkaway” from mounting unnecessary hostility.

Self-control means you are in control. If you aren’t someone else is. That means the other person wins by controlling you. Don’t let another’s intemperance control your temper.

For years I carried in my wallet a little note given me as a teen by my mother that still works. It reads, “A soft answer turns away anger.” Try it.

Follow the wise council of Barney Fife, “Nip it. Just nip it.”