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Intermittent Explosive Disorder

Children with intermittent explosive disorder have difficulty controlling their aggressive impulses and have regular verbally and physically aggressive behavioural outbursts that come on quickly and often happen in response to a minor provocation by someone close to them. The verbal aggression occurs twice a week for three months and may involve verbal arguments/fights, tirades or temper tantrums) and aggression to property, people or animals that doesn’t result in damage injury. Or, a child could be physically aggressive three times in a 12-month period that involves damaging property or injuring people or animals.

Approximately 3 % of people have intermittent explosive disorder. Intermittent explosive disorder is most common in adolescence. Intermittent explosive disorder is a behavioural disorder; this means that young people with intermittent explosive disorder are unable to regulate their emotions and manage their behaviours. Some research has found a genetic cause for intermittent explosive disorder, meaning that children of adults with intermittent explosive disorder are more likely to have the disorder. Children who experience physical and emotional trauma are also at a greater risk of having intermittent explosive disorder.

Untreated intermittent explosive disorder is likely to persist into adulthood and negatively impact a young person’s daily functioning. However, with appropriate intervention, children with intermittent explosive disorder and their families can gain skills that allow them to manage the intermittent explosive disorder and live healthy and productive lives.

Concerns for children with intermittent explosive disorder

Children with intermittent explosive have different learning needs from those of their peers. In order to meet their needs, they must be identified as having intermittent explosive disorder and provided with appropriate behavioural intervention. If the intermittent explosive disorder is present at school, schools should use individualised learning plans to ensure that the specific learning needs of children with intermittent explosive disorder are met and provide provisions to help children with intermittent explosive disorder to succeed in the classroom (eg. using positive reinforcement and a rewards system).

Children with intermittent explosive disorder whose needs are not being met can experience a range of school-based concerns, including: social isolation (feeling different from their peers, being teased and being excluded by their peers), disengaging with school (refusing to engage in learning activities and avoiding attending school) and reduced school performance (exhibiting a gap between their intellectual potential and their academic output).

Children may experience the following emotional concerns in relation to their intermittent explosive disorder that require help from a psychologist: anger, anxiety and depression.

Children with intermittent explosive disorder are also more likely than children without intermittent explosive disorder to have additional behavioural concerns that require help from a psychologist, such as: attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, oppositional defiant disorder and conduct disorder.

In addition to the emotional concerns already listed, older adolescents and adults with untreated intermittent explosive disorder are at greater risk of substance abuse disorders, antisocial personality disorder and borderline personality disorder.

Assessment for intermittent explosive disorder

During your first session we meet with you and your child to conduct a clinical interview to determine if your child has intermittent explosive disorder. If we believe that your child may have an additional disorder, such as attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder or oppositional defiant disorder, we will suggest that your child undertake a behavioural assessment. Following these investigations, we develop a personalised, evidence-based treatment plan to help your child and your family.

Treatment for intermittent explosive disorder

If your child has been diagnosed with intermittent explosive disorder, our evidence-based, behavioural intervention program can help your child. The purpose of our behavioural intervention program is to shift children’s behaviour while ensuring that their underlying needs are met. We use behavioural intervention therapy to teach you skills that enable you to recognise your children’s behaviours, understand the reasons for their behaviours and provide you with strategies to meet their underlying needs in alternative ways. This intervention may also include:

  • Parenting skills training
  • Emotional regulation
  • Problem solving
  • Social skills training

For more detailed information on what to expect in your sessions with us, please visit our appointments page. If you would like help in understanding and managing your child’s intermittent explosive disorder, please contact us to schedule an appointment.

We offer personalised, evidence-based treatments that can help your child if s/he is experiencing anger, anxiety or depression as a result of their experiences with intermittent explosive disorder. Please visit our treatment page for further information or contact us to schedule an appointment.

We can help your child if s/he has intermittent explosive disorder and is experiencing negative outcomes at school by providing your school with practical recommendations or by visiting your child’s school and meeting their school professionals. Please contact us to schedule an appointment.