Managing Hot Temper in Nigeria

Keywords: Hot temper, intermittent explosive disorder, anger, aggression, amygdala, hippocampus, prefrontal cortex, de-escalation, Nigeria.


Managing Hot Temper in Nigeria. This is known as managing anger issues. What is Intermittent Explosive Disorder (IED), hot temper? Do Nigerians suffer from it? What can cause it? Are there accompanying complications? Can IED be prevented and treated?

Anger is actually an emotional expression of one’s displeasure towards another person who has wronged him/her. Yes a little anger can be good in a way, especially when it helps the angry person express his/her negative feelings. It can also be a motivator to solving problems. In excess, anger is problematic.

Human aggression is actually an act that results in physical or verbal injury to self, to others or to objects. Sometimes aggression can be defensive, premeditated or impulsive. Defensive aggression is actually normal. But when premeditated or impulsive, it becomes a mental health condition. This is because it not only affects the targeted victim but also the anger perpetrator.

Excessive anger, also known as hot temper in Nigeria that leads to aggression is a symptom of many mental health conditions. These mental health conditions are schizophrenia, depression, anxiety, etc. Anger and aggression can also be expressed when one is undergoing serious stress issues. These mental health conditions have their core symptoms, but may also present with different methods of expressing anger and aggression. Even those who abuse substances do also have anger issues that may lead to aggression. But there is a mental health disorder that has severe anger with expression of aggression as its main presenting issues. This disorder is called Intermittent Explosive Disorder (IED), known by Nigerians as hot temper.

What is Intermittent Explosive Disorder?

 Intermittent Explosive Disorder (IED) is a type of mental illness that is characterized by impulsive anger and aggression. These anger and aggressive attacks differ in severity from one person to another. And these anger attacks lasts less than 30 minutes. And it starts mainly during the adolescent age, but can begin as early as 6 years of age.

They can come as temper tantrums, verbal arguments or aggressions and physical fights.  In Igbo language, such people are said to have ‘iwe oku’ i.e. hot temper.  And actually, these people are aware their anger outbursts are out of proportion to the situations that caused them. But unfortunately, they cannot control themselves when the anger comes, even though it causes the person distress.  And these aggressions are not premeditated nor are they committed to achieve any serious gain be it monetary, power, etc.

There are actually three subtypes of IED, the anger attack that targets its aggression on only human beings.  Then there is anger that targets aggression on properties only and the type that attack both people and properties.

It is important to know that besides the anger and aggressive issues, persons with IED have normal behaviour.

The symptoms on the perpetrator:

When the anger comes in, the person feels inside himself or herself these symptoms. Once the anger come in the person starts having racing thoughts, increased energy, shake, palpitations and chest tightness. But after the aggressive outbursts, the person feels relief and tired as well as remorse, regrets and embarrassment.

How the anger and aggressive outbursts present:

Temper tantrums –

The person may go into a rage in public for a very flimsy excuse. He may yell and scream when upset and even hit the wall with his fist in situations where most people will not have any anger.

Verbal arguments or abuse –

These can come as shouting and or threatening the victim. The perpetrator can also do verbal abuses on the victim by name calling, belittling, etc. The perpetrator may scream at his victim just because the victim corrected him on a matter.

Physical assaults –

Assaults can also be part of the aggression, whereby the perpetrator can hit, slap or use weapons on his/her victims. The person frequently engages in public fights.

Property damage –

This could come as mild as slamming the door, but can be as major as breaking things and fire setting.  

Do Nigerians suffer from Intermittent Explosive Disorder?

This is as simple as asking if Nigerians have hot temper. The simple answer is yes, some Nigerians do suffer from IED.  The prevalence rates of IED in all counties are between 1% to 7% depending on the study population. The most common type of IED is the type that involves anger attacks on both humans and properties. Due to the fact that it occurs among Nigerians, writing about managing hot temper in Nigeria is important.

Cause and risk factors.

The causes and risk factors to the development of IED include:

Biological causes:

Genetics –

Intermittent Explosive Disorder is inherited from parents to offspring. So it is due a genetic problems.

Problems with chemicals in the brain –

The level of serotonin, a neurotransmitter in the brain is low in this disorder. Serotonin is involved in regulating human emotions and behaviour, especially inhibiting aggression.

Also there is hyperactivity of another neurotransmitter called dopamine. The increase in dopamine activity causes impulsive aggression.

Structural brain abnormality –

There is problem with the amygdala which is over reacting. The amygdala is the area of the brain responsible for emotions like fear, anger, etc.

Another malfunctioning area of the brain is the hippocampus. This brain area is responsible for memory. When it malfunctions, it cannot distinguish between old happenings and new ones. So the person remains at a hyper vigilant state with every provocation no matter how slight.

The prefrontal cortex of the brain is also not function well. Its job lies in controlling the activities of the amygdale. So when the prefrontal cortex is malfunctioning, it cannot control the activities of the amygdale which continues to over react. Another function of the prefrontal cortex is decision making. When it malfunctions, the person finds it difficult to differentiate when to be or not to be angry.

Even the grey matter volume in different parts of the brain of those with IED, is reduced. There is also degeneration of the brain white matter in some brain areas. The grey matter functions to process information in the brain. So when they are reduced, processing information in the brain will be hampered. On the other hand, the white matter functions to pass information from one brain area to the other. If the white matter degenerates, passing information will be difficult.

Environmental risk factors:

These environmental risk factors make it more likely that the person will have IED. Some of the risk factors to developing IED include being male, young and unemployed. Other factors include being divorced or separated and having low education. Having past adverse childhood experiences such as physical abuse and child sexual abuse are high risk factors for IED.

When it come to age, IED starts at puberty and can last through adulthood. Some can begin earlier. It is more between those of ages less than 35 to 40 years. Concerning education, it is seen more in those who spent 12 or less years in school.

In as much as it occurs more in males, women in conflict affected areas are at high risk of developing IED. Also women who have experienced human rights violations, hardships and gender violence are also at risk.

The in Nigeria, women are exposed to motivated rape, forced marriages, traumatic loss of their husbands and other family members. These women are also exposed to destruction of properties and displacement in communities. Poverty is a major challenge for many women in Nigeria.

Complications from Intermittent Explosive Disorder.

The problems that can arise from someone having IED can affect the perpetrator as well as the victims.  It can affect them psychologically, socially, economically and physically.

Psychological effects:

In the real fact of the matter, the person suffering from this disorder doesn’t like his/her behaviour. But despite the personal dislike, the anger and aggression is involuntary. And of course the victim also suffers. Both can suffer depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder and substance abuse as well as suicidality.

Socioeconomic issues:

The family that has someone suffering from IED is more likely to be dysfunctional. There will be child abuse issues as well as intimate partner violence. Any forms of these and lead to the death of any family member. There could also be separation and divorce. It can also affect the person at work and cause job loss or unemployment. For those still employed, there will be strained interpersonal relationship with the coworkers. And there will be financial constraints.

For the children and the adolescents, they could have problems in school such as school suspension.

Physical complications:

These include hypertension, cardiac diseases, stroke and other stress related illnesses such as cancer. There could also be peptic ulcer and chronic pain. Death can also ensue via any of these diseases or by road traffic accidents.

Can Intermittent Explosive Disorder be prevented or treated?

Treatment of IED:

Treatment is mainly by psychotherapy from a clinical psychologist. Methods of treatment or managing hot temper in Nigeria include cognitive behavioral therapy, anger management, etc. The individual is treated as well the family members. The clinical psychologist also trains the individual on how to adjust his/her life style so as to reduce the risk factors.

Medications can also be used in the treatment. But this is done by the psychiatrist. The combination of medication and psychotherapy is best the treatment of IED.

There is need to have good nutrition. Micronutrient such as vitamin B complex is very important. The B complex can be obtained from grains, meat, legumes (beans) and leafy green vegetables. The B vitamins leads to reduction of stress, improves mood and energy.

Vitamin D is also important in this disorder. It helps to improve mood.


This is another method of managing hot temper in Nigeria.

For the individual –

There is need for the individual to be compliant, i.e. keep to medications and therapy. Also it is important for the individual to practice regular deep breathing. The person should change his/her way of thinking by making use of rational thoughts. Also use problem solving techniques. There is need for the individual to learn to listen to other people’s point of view. Think about your response to issues before saying them. If there is need to change environment, then do so. And avoid the abuse of substances such as alcohol, cannabis, cocaine and other stimulants. There will also be need to stay away from the use of caffeine from coffee.

For the partner and others involved –

Do de-escalation. This requires patience and calmness. It also requires that you be empathic. So make use of tactful language instead of belittling words during arguments. This can be done by disengaging your personal feelings during an episode of rage from the person.

It is important to stay off the person’s personal space. A personal space is the space between you and the other person and it measures 18 inches (46cm) to 4 feet. The personal space reduces stress for the individual.

While maintaining the personal space, ask the individual what you can do to help. Do not engage in power tussle. And as you speak, validate the person’s anger, but do not blame anyone. Suggest leaving the environment to a calm place.

Learn to listen to the individual’s own point of view. And if there is need to get others to help you, please do so. De-escalation is better done with others around. Make sure that sharp and dangerous objects are kept out of reach for the individual.

If you are unable to do any of these, then get away to a safe place and seek help. Then as soon as possible, get the individual to medical treatment.

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