Defining Intermittent Explosive Disorder and its Symptoms

Have you ever had a sudden episode of uncontrollable rage? Is it usually followed by instant regret, remorse or embarrassment? If you have experienced these sudden episodes, you may have intermittent explosive disorder, IED.

intermittent personality disorder

Intermittent explosive disorder is a rare disorder, less than 5% of the US population has been diagnosed with it. However, it’s more prominent among males, especially male in their childhood or teenage years. This disorder falls in the category of impulse control disorder. It’s a sudden and uncontrollable urge to either break things or hurt people. People with intermittent explosive disorder can experience road rages, temper tantrums, and domestic abuse.

This disorder can cause great distress in a personal and professional life. They’re often perceived as aggressive or always angry by their friends and family. They have frequent verbal or physical fights with very little provocation. The reactions are often greatly disproportionate to the provocation. Their actions can lead to relationships problems and divorces. It may be hard for them to hold on to jobs or stay in school. These will lead to financial problems, cars accidents, and other mental issues.

People with IED often find themselves depressed because their disorder keeps them from being close to other people. It may be hard for them to socialize or keep friends around. It can affect their physical health by increasing blood pressure, chronic pain, and risks of cardiovascular diseases. Many times, they will turn to substance abuse and self-harm.


Intermittent explosive disorder is a mental state that is affected by both environmental and biological factors. People with this disorder are often from abusive families, or they have experienced multiple traumas while they were young. The disorder starts to develop as early as six years old. These people will start to exhibit traits they have been exposed to.

It has also been linked to genetics, so parents can pass it down to their children. Although it’s not entirely conclusive yet, there may have some key differences in the structure, function, and chemistry of the brain that ties in with the disorder. Other mental health issues have been known to affect patients.


The episodes usually come with little to no warnings and last up to 30 minutes each time. To be diagnosed with IED, these episodes have to happen more than once over a period of three months. The person may experience small and less imposing urges between the episodes. Right before the episode or while having it, some people have experienced rage along with tremors, chest tightness, palpitations, and tingling. Some people have also experienced racing thoughts and irritability. The urges are usually impossible to stop.

The episode will include outbursts such as heated arguments, shouting, shoving, and physical fights. Some people have threatened or assaulted animals and other people during the episodes. They can also break things and cause property damages. People have reported having a very tensed body or feeling aroused right before the outburst. The outburst can serve as a relieve and they immediately feel better after it passes.


Treatments usually depend on the person. IED affects each person differently and you should create a treatment plan with a mental health professional that will works best for you. The most common treatments are psychotherapy and medications.

In psychotherapy, you will identify your triggers and learn to manage them. You will have a plan to control your anger and develop better coping mechanisms when you encounter certain situations. You will learn relaxation techniques and cognitive restructuring. Your doctor will teach you how to develop better communication and problem-solving skills. Basically, you will have to rewire your brain, so it can react different with the triggers.

Medications for IED include certain antidepressants, anticonvulsant mood stabilizers, and anti-anxiety agents.

Intermittent explosive disorder is a dangerous and complex disorder. It should be treated as other mental issues. Although it’s not preventable, it’s treatable. People with IED should see a mental health professional as soon as possible. They need to have to treatment plan and stick to it. There’s not a specific treatment that will fix you, instead, you will have to work on changing your environment and yourself.

Theresa Smith, CASAC, CRC, LMFT, LPC

Theresa Smith is a relationship expert with over 20 years of experience. She has worked in different areas including clinical work, and more recently a writer. She has a passion for happy relationships and feels that it’s an attainable goal for everyone.

Theresa has several professional credentials centered around mental health, psychology, dating, relationships, and addiction treatment. She has written thousands of articles and many e-books on many facets of dating and relationships.

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