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Life Mantra
Anu Goel
Impulses: Problematic if not controlled 03 April, 2014
An impulse, in psychological terms, is a sudden wish or an urge to act in a particular way. Impulses are considered normal, but can become problematic if they aren’t, or cannot be controlled. There are five behavioral stages that characterise impulsivity: the impulse itself, the growing tension, pleasure derived from carrying out that act, relief from that urge, and finally, guilt or regret at being victim to one's urges.
Although impulsive anger is seen in many disorders like oppositional-defiant disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, substance-related disorders, conduct disorder, anti-social personality disorder, bipolar mood disorder, and schizophrenia; intermittent explosive disorder comes under impulse control disorders, along with pathological gambling, compulsive shopping, kleptomania, pyromania, trichotillomania, dermatillomania, etc. where impulsive anger is not accounted for by any other mental or physical condition.

Intermittent explosive disorder (IED) is a clinical condition relating mainly to uncontrollable rage, or failure to resist aggressive impulses, that result in violent assault or destruction of property. Thus this condition relates to impulsive and assaultive behavior.

It is characterized by recurrent, but brief, episodes of extreme anger and aggression which is grossly disproportional to the given precipitating psychosocial stressor at hand, or a real or perceived provocation.

Although it is often unpremeditated, there may be affective changes prior to an outburst, such as tension, or mood changes, or bodily symptoms, such as chest tightness, sweating, twitching, or palpitations. The violent or aggressive acts are often accompanied by a sensation of relief, and in some cases, pleasure, but are invariably succeeded by remorse after the act.

Prevalence of IED is higher in men than women, and it mostly begins in teens, or early 20s. People who have a history of substance abuse have an increased risk of IED, as do those who were abused as children, or have experienced multiple traumatic events in their life.

Living in an environment of explosive behavior, and physical and verbal abuse can cause this disorder, as being exposed to violence at an early age increases the chances of children exhibiting those traits later in life. It also occurs in families that have a history of addiction and mood disorders.

Thus, explosive behavior may occur as a way of compensating insecurity or low self esteem when confronted in situations that consciously or unconsciously remind the person of his or her low self worth, or frustrating childhood experiences.

There may also be a genetic component related to IED, because some children inherit this disorder as physical or biological abnormalities from their parents, which are sometimes associated with mild neurological abnormalities.

Brain chemistry, relating to dysfunctional neurotransmitters or chemical messenger, such as serotonin, along with hormones such as testosterone and some regions of the brain such as the limbic system or the frontal lobe may also be implicated as a cause of IED.

But regardless of the cause of the disorder, aggressive episodes are more likely to occur during periods of stress. This can be seen in road rage, where a person may be stressed out by the driving habits of another driver, and respond in an aggressive way that escalates out of proportion. Intermittent explosive disorder can also be seen in domestic violence, where anger leads to assault.

(The article is a joint contribution of Anu Goel, Counselling Psychologist & Apurva Sapra)

Editorial NOTE: This article is categorized under Opinion Section. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of In case you have a opposing view, please click here to share the same in the comments section.
About The Author
Mrs. ANU GOEL is a Counselling Psychologist. She has practiced in Mumbai for 5 years, and is currently practicing in Delhi since the last 7 years. Goel, who can be contacted at 9313320146 and, is a member of the Counsellor's Association of India, and has been a guest speaker on several occasions.
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