How to Live or Work with an Explosive Personality

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"How to Live or Work with an Explosive Personality"
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If you work or live with an individual who has an explosive personality, you might be involved in a difficult relationship that could turn ugly on a moment’s notice.  The explosive personality struggles with a mental health issue called Intermittent Explosive Disorder. He is a person who has never learned to handle his emotions and generally suffers with intense feelings of low self-esteem.  When feeling threatened or thwarted, he responds with a barrage of verbal and/or physical abuse.  Unlike other difficult personalities, this one does not know how to handle conflict and can become violent without warning.

An explosive personality can erupt with only the slightest provocation and his anger is always disproportionate to the actual circumstances.  An episode of anger due to intermittent explosive disorder can last anywhere from just a few minutes to half an hour.  If not further provoked, this personality type eventually winds down and often, later feels remorse and shame for his conduct. 

Intermittent explosive disorder is an impulse control disorder.  It is believed that the feelings of arousal that accompany mounting anger become an outlet for aggression.  Once an explosive personality  has exploded, feelings of tension subside and he is left feeling remorseful, but relaxed.

An explosive personality does not like himself and dislikes his out-of-control behavior even more.  Yet, he repeatedly throws what amounts to an adult tantrum when experiencing frustration or feeling misunderstood, threatened, or rejected. 

Dealing with an individual who has an explosive personality requires that you be on guard and ready to take necessary steps to protect yourself, including calling police if you feel physically threatened. When safe to do so, there are some tools that can assist you in setting appropriate boundaries while holding this most difficult of all personalities responsible for his behavior.

1. Never engage an explosive personality in verbal combat when he is already exhibiting out-of-control emotions.  He is not capable of processing on a cognitive level and will react more like a wounded animal than a rational human being.

2. Try to listen and validate his feelings, without attempting to comment on the issue behind them.

3. If you can safely do so, suggest that you both take a few minutes to cool off and then leave the vicinity.

4. If the individual is already in the throes of yelling, your best recourse is to do nothing.  Let him finish, or wait for him to pause and then try telling him that you hear that he is upset, but  would like for him to stop screaming at you.

5. Always remember, that if an explosive personality invades your personal space or threatens physical violence, leave immediately and/or summon the help of law enforcement.

6. When the individual is calm and in a congenial mood, try talking to him about his bouts of anger and ask him to consider getting professional help in dealing with his explosive behavior.

The explosive personality is the individual who experiences road rage, gets into fights when intoxicated, and abuses his spouse.  Unless he eventually recognizes his problem and seeks professional help, he is likely to end up sacrificing most of the meaningful relationships in his life and may eventually become entangled with the legal system due to criminal behavior.


More about this author: Dr. Deborah Bauers