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Intermittent Explosive Disorder

Intermittent Explosive Disorder

Someone you may have perceived as having a poor control over temper, may actually be suffering from intermittent explosive disorder. Explained here, are the causes, symptoms, and treatment for this psychological condition.
PsycholoGenie Staff
Angry outbursts for a reason that does not call for them, throwing tantrums without a cause, and breaking the law in some cases, are all traits that characterize an Intermittent Explosive Disorder (IED). It is evident when a person suffering from it exhibits extremely aggressive and violent behavior, and tends to cause severe harm to people and property. This disorder is classified under the impulse control disorder, where a person may have an angry outburst that does not befit the situation in question. One may have noticed these symptoms in children too. Another way of characterizing this disorder is to notice whether there was any trigger for the uncontrolled anger. Without provocation, or with mild provocation, a situation should not lead to such a severe burst of rage. The sufferer may exhibit this trait at several different times, where the anger just cannot be controlled. This disorder can be attributed to the presence of other mental or physical problems, such as stress, depression, and fatigue. However, anger just because of the presence of these factors cannot qualify as symptoms of IED. A group of all of these, and more symptoms mentioned below, will give a clearer way of identifying someone who suffers from this disorder.
Apart from the symptoms mentioned above, there are other symptoms that you may associate with the presence of this disorder in someone.
  • Those who suffer from this problem tend to misinterpret the intentions of others. They may think that all sorts of behavior and comments are directed towards them, even if they are spoken of in a general sense.
  • They also tend to misinterpret the motives of others, as conspiratorial. Others are perceived as untrustworthy, which is why they find it difficult to form lasting relationships.
  • They tend to notice only the negative in a situation, and directly associate it with themselves, without understanding the situation as a whole.
  • They will never take responsibility for their rage and anger, and will always blame external sources for provoking them. These provocations may or may not be suitable enough for the kind of anger exhibited by them.
  • They may tend to get violent, as they deeply believe that violence is the only way to protect their ego and self-esteem, and prevent others from tarnishing it.
  • Those suffering from this condition may not only harm others. When they cannot find suitable vents or provocation for the anger bubbling under the surface, they may put themselves at a greater risk of self-inflicted violence.
  • Certain physical symptoms may precede the onset of an episode of intermittent explosion. These include trembling, agitation or irritation, overeating, anxious behavior, a tingling sensation all over the body, and the constant repetition of one particular action.


The causes may be rooted in physical, genetic, and environmental conditions.
  • Under the physical aspects, an imbalance in the serotonin (the feel-good hormone) and testosterone levels in the body may cause this disorder. Also, if one has suffered injury of the frontal lobe in the brain, the area that controls impulses, one may be prone to developing this problem.
  • If there has been a history of the disorder in the family, it may pass on through generations.
  • Under the environmental aspects, children who have been brought up amid violence and abuse may start showing traits of this disorder at an early age. If unchecked, these go into adulthood and cause further problems.
  • Those who are under the influence of substance abuse, or suffer from mood disorders or eating disorders, are more likely to develop the condition.


As mentioned before, only those who exhibit a group of the above-mentioned symptoms can be diagnosed with IED. Tests should also be conducted to rule out the possibility of other mental disorders, such as schizophrenia, panic attacks, antisocial personality disorder, and oppositional defiant disorder. Dementia and intoxication, or withdrawal symptoms from substance use should also be eliminated in the process of diagnosing this problem. Once diagnosed, several treatment procedures and medicines may be prescribed.
Medicines such as anticonvulsants, antidepressants, and mood regulators may be prescribed. Psychotherapy may also be applied to help control this problem. This may include group therapy, behavior therapy, and the application of anger management techniques.
Disclaimer: This PsycholoGenie article is for informative purposes only, and should not be replaced for the advice of a medical professional.