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The Link Between IED and Substance Abuse


As Christians, the Holy Scriptures instruct us to guard the actions of our tongues and bodies. While we must speak the truth, we must not lash out in anger in ways that might hurt others. After all, our fellow Christians— and God— will frown upon any aggressive outbursts that are solely intended to hurt another. It doesn’t matter if it was the result of our emotional state.

If you grew up in any church, you’ve surely heard this message. Even if you didn’t, you probably still know the Golden Rule: treat others the way you want to be treated. Jesus says it like this: love your neighbor as yourself.

But what happens if poor social or emotional behavior isn’t a choice? What if it’s not even a bad habit you’ve picked up over the years? Aggression and poor impulse control are notable influences on a substance abuse disorder. In fact, chronic addiction can make you act in ways you never would otherwise. Researchers have also found that aggression can be a mental health issue in an of itself. Actually, this condition is called intermittent explosive disorder, or IED. IED, says research published in Feb. 2017 by the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, can also be a major risk factor for substance abuse disorder.

About Intermittent Explosive Disorder (IED)

IED is a mental health disorder that impacts the way individuals respond to certain situations or manage their anger or aggression. As with many mental health issues, medical professionals aren’t yet certain exactly what causes IED. However, they have discovered that the condition most often develops during childhood. It’s worth noting that more people under the age of 40 have IED than those over that age. IED might also be linked to genetic factors, brain chemistry, and a person’s environment, particularly if childhood environments were traumatic or abusive.

Someone with an intermittent explosive disorder is prone to repetitive and sudden episodes of extreme anger, verbal outbursts or physical aggression. Usually, the reaction is out of proportion to the situation. When it comes to young children, parents might write off their outbursts as temper tantrums or adolescent mood swings. However, IED usually goes beyond what is normal in the given situation.

Like an addiction, IED is a chronic disorder and it can continue for years. Lack of treatment can lead to an increase in the symptoms’ severity over the years. In a Christian environment, someone with IED might be told to “let go and let God,” or “temper their actions with love.” The person might try to do these things and be unable to do so because they can’t control their IED symptoms. Treatment options can include psychotherapy, ongoing counseling, and medication.

How Does IED Relate to Substance Abuse?

IED impacts a surprising number of Americans. As many as 16 million people in the country deal with this disorder, which is more than the number of people diagnosed with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder combined. IED is also a major factor in the development of substance abuse disorder. According to research from Emil Coccaro, MD, and his associates, in 92.5 percent of cases where someone developed both IED and substance abuse disorder, IED came first.

Abusing drugs or alcohol can lead to aggressive behavior in some people, especially when they are high or are trying to get drugs to deal with withdrawal symptoms. However, the new research, which leveraged data from the National Comorbidity Survey, suggests that chronic aggressive behavior might actually lead to substance abuse the vast majority of the time.

What Does This Mean for Christians Suffering from IED or Chronic Addiction?

For anyone suffering IED, awareness of the increased risks of substance abuse can help mitigate those risks. Someone working with counselors or medical professionals to treat IED can ask about how to spot early signs of substance abuse or work with professionals to understand how to avoid triggers that could lead to addiction.

For Christians, both IED and chronic addiction can be difficult diagnoses to face. If you’ve learned that you should treat your body as a temple, follow God’s will in your life and treat others with patience, kindness, and love, admitting that you have a medical condition that seems to make those actions impossible can be hard.

In reality, nothing is impossible with God, and he has made a way for any Christian to come to him and try each day to follow his will. For someone with an addiction or a mental health condition such as IED, that way might look like professional treatment. If you’re struggling with an addiction or feel at risk for substance abuse disorder because of your mental health condition, don’t be afraid to reach out for help today.

At the Road to Freedom, we help people find a way back to God’s will and a sober lifestyle through proven medical and therapeutic approaches coupled with Christian counseling. Call us today to find out more about your treatment options.

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