Intermittent Explosive Disorder

The intermittent explosive disorder can affect six children and 7.3% of adults. As a whole, 1.4% to 7% of people of the population have the intermittent explosive disorder. A child facing intermittent explosive disorder may have impulsive behavior outbursts rarely or two or more outbursts per week for three months. This disorder is most common in men.

What is Intermittent Explosive Disorder?

The intermittent explosive disorder includes repeated, sudden episodes of impulsive, aggressive, violent behavior or angry verbal outbursts in which an individual reacts grossly out of proportion to the situation. These intermittent, explosive outbursts can cause significant distress and negatively impact relationships, work, and school, and the individuals can also face legal and financial consequences. People with this disorder have a low tolerance for frustration and adversity. Outside this episode, they usually behave. Almost 80% of people with this disorder have other mental health conditions like anxiety disorder, externalizing disorder, intellectual disabilities, autism, and bipolar disorder is the most common. This mental disorder starts in childhood or adolescence and continues in later life also. This disorder is a chronic disorder that can continue for years, but the severity of outbursts may decrease with age. To cure this disorder, treatment through medications and psychotherapy can control the aggressive impulses of an individual.

Symptoms of Intermittent Explosive Disorder

Explosive eruptions can happen suddenly, with little or no warning, and usually last less than 30 minutes. Sometimes this issue occurs frequently or is separated by weeks or months of nonaggression. The less chronic verbal outbursts may occur in between episodes of physical aggression. An individual with this disorder is mostly irritable, impulsive, aggressive, or chronically angry.

The aggressive outburst −

  • Are impulsive, i.e., not planned.

  • Being encouraged happens rapidly and does not last more than 30 minutes.

  • Leads to significant distresses.

  • Creates problems at school, work, and home.

The explosive verbal and behavioral outbursts are out of proportion to the situation, with no thought to consequences, and involve −

  • Temper tantrums.

  • Shouting or threatening others is included in verbal arguments.

  • Physically assaulting people or animals by shoving, slapping, punching, by using a weapon to cause harm.

  • Property or damaging objects like throwing, kicking, or breaking objects and slamming doors.

  • Domestic violence

  • Road rage.

The anger episodes can be mild or chronic. This involves hurting others badly enough that they require medication or even cause death.

An individual having an intermittent explosive disorder can experience the following just before ana ger outburst −

  • Rage

  • Irritability

  • The increasing sense of tension

  • Racing thoughts

  • Poor communication

  • High level of energy

  • Tremors

  • Heart palpitations

  • Chest tightness

After the outburst, an individual may feel a sense of relief followed by regret and embarrassment.

Causes of Intermittent Disorder

Intermittent explosive disorder, in some cases, starts in childhood− after six years or during the teenage years. It is more common in younger adults than in older adults. The proper reason for this disorder is unclear, but several environmental and biological factors have probably caused it.

  • Environment− Mostly, this disorder can be seen in families where explosive behavior and verbal and physical abuse are common. Seeing this type of violence from early childhood makes it more likely that these children will exhibit these same traits as they mature.

  • Genetics− There may be genetic components causing the disorder to be passed down from parents to children. Research suggests that almost 44% to 72% of the likelihood of developing impulsive aggressive behavior is genetic.

  • Differences in how the brain works− An individual with the intermittent explosive disorder are characterized by distinct structures, functions, and chemistry of the brain compared to individuals who do not have the disorder.

Diagnosis of Intermittent Disorder

For diagnosing an intermittent explosive disorder and eliminating other physical conditions or mental health problems that may be the cause of the symptoms, doctors will suggest the following −

  • Physical Exam − Doctors will suggest some physical exams to identify the physical problems or substance use that could be the main cause of the symptoms. These exams include lab tests as well.

  • Psychological Evaluation − Health professionals sometimes refer to a mental health professional discussing the symptoms, thoughts, feelings, and behavior patterns.

People must be at least six years old to get an intermittent explosive disorder diagnosis, but it is usually first seen in late childhood or adolescence.

Treatment of Intermittent Disorder

No particular treatment can be effective for curing everyone facing this disorder. Treatment for intermittent explosive disorder includes talk therapy, i.e., psychotherapy and medication.

Psychotherapy− Individual and group therapy sessions focusing on skill building can be helpful. The most commonly used therapy is cognitive behavioral therapy, which helps an individual with this disorder. −

  • Identifying which situations or behaviors may trigger an aggressive response.

  • Learning how to control anger and inappropriate responses using relaxation training, thinking differently about situations, i.e., cognitive restructuring, and applying communication and problem−solving skills.

Medication− Several therapeutic procedures can help in curing the intermittent explosive disorder. These may include certain antidepressants− particularly selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, anticonvulsant mood stabilizers, or other drugs if needed.


From the above discussion, it can be concluded that intermittent explosive disorder occurs in children, adolescents, and younger and older adults. Individuals of all ages can face this disorder. This disorder has symptoms like temper tantrums, irritability, domestic violence, damaging properties and objects, and many more. These symptoms are caused by factors like genetics, environment, and the working condition of the brain. This disorder can be cured by some treatments like psychotherapy and sometimes medications, and this treatment can be diagnosed by physical exams and psychological evaluations by a psychiatrist or psychologist.

Updated on: 13-Dec-2022


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