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What Is Intermittent Explosive Disorder?

Intermittent explosive disorder (IED) is a psychological disorder marked by a period of sudden outbursts of aggressive behavior followed by a period of non-aggressive behavior. The majority of cases appear in people who are under the age of 35 years. According to some research studies, the intermittent explosive disorder is more common in men than women. It often develops in adults who have faced physical or verbal violence in their childhood in the family. Other biological and genetic factors may contribute to this disorder. Its symptoms include regular outbursts of anger, irritability, impulsiveness, rage, bad language, etc. followed by a period of tiredness, remorse, guilt, etc. Treatment of such behavior is based on the medications, and psychotherapy meant to control aggressive impulses.

What Is Intermittent Explosive Disorder?

What Is Intermittent Explosive Disorder?

Intermittent explosive disorder (IED) is a chronic disorder characterized by repeated, sudden episodes of aggressive, violent behavior, or verbal outbursts of anger out of proportion to the situation. The examples of intermittent explosive behaviors are road rage, throwing or breaking objects, domestic abuse, or other fluctuations of temper.(1) It involves sudden outbursts of anger, aggression, resentment, or violence.(2) It leads to significant distress in life and leaves a negative impact on relationships, work, and school, which may result in legal and financial consequences.(1)

The intermittent explosive disorder can continue for years. However, the severity of outbursts may reduce with increasing age.(1) However, it is common that people lose their temper once in many cases. But, the outbursts in Intermittent explosive disorder are frequent and may occur again and again. They display tantrums that may use bad language or attack verbally or physically and often indulge in destroying properties.(2)

The episodes of Explosive tempers appear suddenly, with little without warning that may end in less than 30 minutes. It may appear frequently followed by the interval of weeks or months of nonaggression. Less severe verbal outbursts sometimes are observed amidst episodes of physical aggression. The patient is usually impulsive, irritable, aggressive, or angry for a long time in most cases.(1) For some individuals with Intermittent explosive disorder, these episodes may appear regularly. Verbal outbursts may appear between acts of physical violence.(2)

Aggressive events of Intermittent explosive disorder may be represented by:

  • Yelling and shouting(2)
  • Rage(1)
  • Irritability(1)
  • Intense arguments(2)
  • Increased energy(1)
  • Racing thoughts (increased rush of adrenaline)(2)
  • Headache or head pressure(2)
  • Tingling
  • Tremors
  • Palpitations
  • Tightness in the chest(1)

The episodes of explosive verbal and behavioral outbursts are always out of proportion to the situation, are represented by-

  • Temper tantrums
  • Tirades(1)
  • Aggressive arguments(1)
  • Road rage(2)
  • Shouting(2)
  • Slapping, shoving or pushing as physical violence(2)
  • Physical fights(2)
  • punching on the walls or breaking plates(2)
  • Domestic violence(2)
  • Damage to the property(1)
  • Indulging in threatening or assaulting people or animals(1)

The patient may show the feeling of irritation, loss of control, and rage before and during the episode of sudden outbursts of aggressive behavior. It is often accompanied by a sense of emotional detachment or racing thoughts. It is followed by a feeling a sense of relief and tiredness after the end of the episode. Then, the patient feels regret, remorse, or embarrassment.(1)

Intermittent explosive disorder occurs due to the combination of biological and environmental factors. It is more common in people who grew as a child in families with an environment of explosive behavior, verbal and physical abuse. The genetic component also plays a role in Intermittent explosive disorder.(3)


Intermittent explosive behavior, as the name suggests, is intermittent but regular outbursts of expression such as anger, irritation, rage, physical violence, etc. followed by a feeling of emotional detachment or racing thoughts, regret, embarrassment and remorse.


Team PainAssist
Team PainAssist
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Team PainAssist, Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:March 14, 2020

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