Intermittent Explosive Disorder

Intermittent Explosive Disorder falls in the category of Impulse-Control Disorders. The condition is characterized by failure to resist aggressive impulses, resulting in serious assaults or property destruction. Examples of this behavior include threatening to or actually hurting another person and purposefully breaking or damaging an object of value.

The degree of aggressiveness expressed during an episode is grossly out of proportion to any provocation or situational stress. The individual may describe the episodes as "spells" or "attacks" in which the explosive behavior is preceded by a sense of tension or arousal and followed immediately by a sense of relief. Often genuine regret is expressed after the outburst. Later the individual may also feel upset, remorseful or embarrassed about the behavior.

Typically beginning in the early teens, the disorder often precedes - and may predispose for - later depression, anxiety and substance abuse disorders. Nearly 82 percent of those with IED also had one of these other disorders, yet only 28.8 percent ever received treatment for their anger.

Most patients are young men and history will often involve frequent traffic accidents, moving violations and possibly sexual impulsivity. These patients may exhibit extreme sensitivity to alcohol. This disorder is a controversial category because some clinicians believe that it is only a symptom of other diagnoses rather than a disorder on its own.

Intermittent Explosive Disorder. Last reviewed 12/31/1969
  • Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders
  • DSM-IV™ Made Easy: The Clinician's Guide to Diagnosis
  • Kessler RC, Coccaro EF, Fava M, Jaeger S, Jin R, Walters E. The prevalence and correlates of DSM-IV intermittent explosive disorder in the National Comorbidity Survey Replication. Archives of General Psychiatry. 2006 Jun; 63(6):669-78
  • NIMH (2006).
  • Olvera R. L. (2002). Intermittent explosive disorder: epidemiology, diagnosis and management. CNS Drugs. 16(8):517-26.