A Guide to Externalizing Disorders
Externalizing is a psychiatric term associated with a problem with self-control. People with externalizing disorders have difficulty controlling emotions, impulses.
Whereas internalizing manifests in directing emotions inwardly, externalizing manifests in “acting out”–in antisocial and aggressive behaviors that may violate the boundary and safety of others. To ordinary people, they may come across as aggressive, confrontational, and/or oppositional.
The fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) cites a group of disorders that show externalizing.
Related Psychiatric Disorders
Some examples of psychiatric disorders associated with externalizing disorders are the Disruptive, Conduct, and Impulse-control Disorders in the DSM-5.
- Antisocial Personality Disorder – is described as a personality disorder where a person aged 18 years or older exhibits a behavioral pattern of violations and disregard for the rights of others. The onset of symptoms can be seen in persons whose antisocial acts began before 15 years of age.
- Oppositional Defiant Disorder – symptoms of this disorder include vindictiveness, argumentative and defiant behavior, and irritability. They argue with authority figures and refuse to comply with rules. They may deliberately annoy and make mistakes and blame others for the consequences.
- Conduct Disorder – the manifestation of any or a combination of the following symptoms are the criteria for diagnosis: lying, theft, destruction of property, and aggressive behavior towards people and animals.
- Kleptomania – more commonly known as stealing, kleptomania is a disorder associated with being unable to resist taking seemingly random objects without permission. These objects are not needed for personal use or their monetary value. Compared to an ordinary act of theft (where people steal things because they need them), people with this disorder feel a sense of gratification, pleasure, and relief during the act of theft.
Other psychiatric disorders associated with externalizing are pyromania (fire-setting) and intermittent explosive disorder. These externalizing disorders are dangerous because of the harm they can cause the individual and to others around them. However, these disorders can be managed with the right combination of medication and therapy. If you or know of anyone who has symptoms related to the disorders listed above, it is best to consult a psychiatrist to get a proper diagnosis and treatment. The criteria listed above are just an overview of symptoms. Psychiatrists will do the detailed work of assessing, diagnosing, and treatment planning.