What is Intermittent Explosive Disorder?

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Intermittent explosive disorder is a condition that involves sudden, repeated episodes of aggression, anger, and impulsive outbursts in which a person reacts inappropriately to any given situation. Examples of the disorder may include; road rage, domestic violence, temper tantrums and throwing objects. These behaviors may cause a person to experience significant distress, and can impact relationships, work and school, as well cause legal and financial issues.


The explosive eruptions of temper associated with intermittent explosive disorder happen suddenly and without much warning. These episodes can happen frequently or may occur every few weeks or months. Less severe verbal outbursts can happen between periods of physical violence. A person can be chronically angry, irritable, aggressive and possibly impulsive a lot of times.

Episodes of aggression can be accompanied by any of the following things:
•Tightness in the chest
•Energy increase
•Uncontrollable thoughts
•Tremors (shaking)

People who have explosive outbursts of anger will do so out of proportion to the situation and don’t care about the consequences of their actions. It’s common for a person to have heated arguments, tirades, and physical fights, temper tantrums, shouting matches and possibly threaten harm against loved ones or animals.

When to Seek Professional Help?

If a person exhibits signs and symptoms of intermittent explosive disorder in their behavior, it’s important to seek medical attention. A person can speak to their doctor about treatment options or request a referral to see a mental health provider.

What are the Causes of Intermittent Explosive Disorder?

The precise reasons why intermittent explosive disorder occurs is not known. However, the disorder can possibly be due to a number of different environmental and biological issues. The condition most often begins during childhood, after six years of age, or during adolescence and is most common in individuals under 40 years old.

Most individuals with this disorder were raised in families where explosive behavior and other types of violent outbursts were common. Being exposed to this type of violence can shape a child and increases the risks they will exhibit the same behaviors in adulthood.

Genetics could also have a role in the development of intermittent explosive disorder, the condition may be passed down from the parent to a child.
Brain chemistry could lead to the development of intermittent explosive disorder. There could be differences in the levels of serotonin in a person’s brain. Serotonin is an important chemical messenger and it may work differently in people with this disorder.

Treatment and Medications for Intermittent Explosive Disorder

There is no particular form of treatment that is best for people with intermittent explosive disorder. Treatment for the condition usually involves talk therapy and medications. Through the use of psychotherapy, a person can identify situation and behaviors that could trigger an explosive reaction.

Talk therapy also helps people learn how to manage their anger and control inappropriate responses. Medications for intermittent explosive disorder may help and it can include antidepressants, anticonvulsants and other medications if necessary.

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