Intermittent Explosive Disorder Treatment, Medication & Symptoms
The main sign of intermittent explosive disorder is a pattern of outbursts of anger that are out of proportion to the situation or event that caused them. Continue to read more about the intermittent explosive disorder signs and symptoms.
By We Level Up FL Treatment Center | Editor Yamilla Francese | Clinically Reviewed By Lauren Barry, LMFT, MCAP, QS, Director of Quality Assurance | Editorial Policy | Research Policy | Last Updated: March 27, 2023
What is Intermittent Explosive Disorder (IED Disorder)?
Intermittent explosive disorder, also called IED disorder, affects replicated rash outbreaks of impulsive, aggressive, violent conduct or angry verbal fits in which the individual responds grossly out of proportion to the situation. Road rage, domestic abuse, throwing or breaking objects, or temper tantrums may indicate an intermittent explosive disorder.
These intermittent, explosive outbursts cause significant distress, negatively impact your relationships, work, and school, and can have legal and financial consequences. Intermittent explosive disorder is a chronic disorder that can continue for years, although the severity of outbursts may decrease with age. Treatment involves medications and psychotherapy to help you control your aggressive impulses.
An impulse-control illness called intermittent explosive disorder (IED) is characterized by unexpected bursts of unjustified rage. Hostility, impulsivity, and recurrent aggressive outbursts are characteristics of the disease. Individuals who have this disorder effectively “explode” into wrath despite no apparent cause or provocation. People with intermittent explosive disorder have spoken of losing emotional control and feeling overwhelmed by fury.
Intermittent Explosive Disorder DSM 5 Criteria
People with IED disorder symptoms may threaten or attack objects, animals, and other humans. IED is said to begin during the early teen years typically, and evidence has suggested that it has the potential to predispose individuals to depression, anxiety, and substance abuse disorders. Without at least three instances of impulsive aggression, intermittent explosive disorder cannot be diagnosed.
The essential feature of intermittent explosive disorder (IED), as defined in both DSM-IV and DSM-5, is the occurrence of repeated episodes of impulsive aggression resulting in verbal or physical assaults or property destruction. 
What is IED mental illness? Individuals with IED mental illness have reported feeling relieved once they have released the tension due to their rage. However, once the comfort wears off, some people report experiencing remorse or embarrassment. While IED can be highly disruptive to an individual’s life and those around them, IED can be managed through proper IED treatment, education about anger management, and possibly through intermittent explosive disorder medication.
Anger, wrath, and a lack of control are frequently experienced before or during an episode. A person with an IED mental disorder might experience racing thoughts or a sense of emotional detachment. For some individuals with IEDs, these episodes occur regularly. Others emerge following weeks or months of nonaggressive behavior. Violence-related verbal outbursts might happen in between physical assaults.
IED is associated with significant interference with work, social relations, and activities of daily living. Individuals with I.E.D symptoms or IED disorder triggers also suffer substantially reduced quality of life experience and satisfaction. But early intermittent explosive disorder interventions may minimize the consequences of IED and improve psychosocial functioning and quality of life. 
- What is Intermittent Explosive Disorder?
- Intermittent Explosive Disorder Symptoms
- Intermittent Explosive Disorder in Adults Statistics
- Intermittent Explosive Disorder IED Facts Sheet
- 7 Signs of Intermittent Explosive Disorder
- Diagnosis for IED
- Causes of Intermittent Explosive Disorder
- Effects of Intermittent Explosive Disorder
- Intermittent Explosive Disorder & Co-Occurring Disorders
- Treatment for Intermittent Explosive Disorder
- Intermittent Explosive Disorder Test
- How to Help Someone with Intermittent Explosive Disorder?
- 5 Most IED Intermittent Explosive Disorder Frequently Asked Questions
Intermittent Explosive Disorder Symptoms
When living with someone with intermittent explosive disorder, the impulsive, aggressive episodes that indicate IED can take many forms. Some behaviors that might be IED symptoms include:
- Yelling and shouting.
- Intense arguments.
- Temper tantrums and rampages.
- Road rage.
- Punching walls or breaking plates.
- Damaging property.
- Physical violence, such as slapping or shoving.
- Fights or brawls.
- Domestic violence.
- Explosive anger and addiction.
These episodes or attacks often occur with little to no warning. They are brief, typically lasting no longer than 30 minutes. They could co-occur with bodily symptoms like:
- Increased energy (adrenaline rush).
- Headache or head pressure.
- Heart palpitations.
- Chest tightness.
- Muscle tension.
Intermittent Explosive Disorder in Adults Statistics
A known mental disorder marked by episodes of unwarranted anger is more common than previously thought, a study funded by the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) found. Depending upon how broadly it’s defined, intermittent explosive disorder (IED) affects as many as 7.3 percent of adults — 11.5-16 million Americans — in their lifetimes.
According to research, 1.4% to 7% of persons suffer from intermittent explosive disorder.
Nearly two-thirds of young adults (63.3%) reported lifetime anger attacks that involved destroying property, threatening violence, or engaging in violence.
Intermittent explosive disorder affects around 7.3% of adults at some point throughout their lifetimes.
Intermittent Explosive Disorder (IED Disorder)
IED Disorder Fact Sheet
Intermittent explosive disorder definition: Intermittent explosive disorder involves repeated, sudden episodes of impulsive, aggressive, violent behavior or angry verbal outbursts in which you react grossly out of proportion to the situation.
Intermittent Explosive Disorder vs Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder
Intermittent explosive disorder vs DMDD: Individuals with symptoms of IED present situations with severe outbursts similar to the ones with DMDD, but they don’t require the persistent disruption in mood between outbursts. Moreover, intermittent explosive disorder must show symptoms for only three months, in contrast to the 1-year requirement for DMDD. Consequently, the two diagnoses shouldn’t be made in the same person.
Intermittent Explosive Disorder in Females
Women in conflict-affected countries are at risk of mental disorders such as posttraumatic stress disorder and depression.
IED is prevalent and disabling amongst women in conflict-affected areas, impacting their health, child-rearing, and ability to participate fully in socio-economic development.
Parents with Intermittent Explosive Disorder
It has been demonstrated that parental attachment has long-lasting effects on children’s psychological growth. IED is additionally thought to run in some families. Research has shown that some people have a genetic propensity to acquiring IED, particularly in those with a first-degree family who has this illness.
Intermittent Explosive Disorder vs Bipolar
Some people with bipolar disorder exhibit heightened agitation and violent conduct. Still, for these individuals, aggressiveness is limited to manic and/or depressive episodes, whereas individuals with IED experience aggressive behavior even during periods with a neutral or positive mood.
DMDD vs Intermittent Explosive Disorder in Men
The primary difference between DMDD and IED is that the former represents a severe form of mood disorder in which anger is most of the time in men. At the same time, the latter describes individuals in whom aggressive outbursts are frequent but episodic and in whom anger is not present most of the time between outbursts.
Intermittent Explosive Disorder DSM-5
Recurrent episodes of aggressive, impulsive behavior toward people or property characterize IED in DSM-5.
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition, is the 2013 update to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the taxonomic and diagnostic tool published by the American Psychiatric Association.
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7 Signs of Intermittent Explosive Disorder & IED Disorder Symptoms
1. Low tolerance for frustration. Having a low frustration tolerance threshold suggests you can’t handle difficult situations. You’re frustrated because you don’t feel like your needs have been satisfied, so you must let off a quick rush of fury to feel better.
2. Intense anger. You might be diagnosed with intermittent explosive disorder if you exhibit signs of intense anger.
3. Mood changes before an outburst. Since “mood swing” is so frequently used in ordinary speech, it is simple to underestimate how serious an authentic mood swing is.
4. Blinding rage. Blinding, uncontrollable anger is one of the “latter” symptoms, and intense outrage is one of the earlier ones. This outward sign of your rage may lead you to do unnecessary, undesirable things like hurting others, your loved ones, or even yourself. To get rid of the tense feelings of rage that have built up inside you, you could find yourself smashing things or damaging property.
5. Feeling out of control before “and” during an episode. Like mood changes before an episode, a person with an IED may recognize feeling entirely out of control of their situation and emotions before erupting into physical or verbal violence.
6. Guilt. The surge of shame and remorse you may experience after an episode, no matter how minor or significant, is another clear symptom that you may have an IED. Is intermittent explosive disorder hereditary? Although some specialists attribute rage problems to genetic factors and neurological flaws, they are also frequently brought on by childhood trauma, such as neglect, rejection, abuse, or abandonment.
7. Depression. After the rage, the racing heart, the violence, and the screams, you may have deep sadness and guilt. Experts have reported that major depressive disorder – marked by persistent sadness, loss of interest in everyday life and people, or suicidal ideation — is a common co-occurring psychiatric disorder to IED. Still, it doesn’t appear in every case. However, the sorrow after an attack does appear for those with intermittent explosive disorder.
IED Disorder Diagnosis
Updated diagnostic standards for intermittent explosive disorder are included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) (IED disorder). The new requirements differentiate between:
- More frequent episodes of verbal aggression without physically harming people or property.
- Less frequent acts of destructive or assaultive behavior that cause serious harm to people or property.
Is intermittent explosive disorder a mental illness? Yes, it is a disorder characterized by impulsive and aggressive behavior that has appeared in all DSM editions. Nonetheless, the third edition was the first to refer to it as IED.. Before the third edition, it was believed to be rare. However, with updated diagnostic criteria and advances in IED research, it’s now considered much more common.
In 2005, a study found that 6.3% of 1,300 people seeking care for a mental health issue met the criteria for DSM 5 IED at some point in their lifetime. Furthermore, 3.1% met the criteria for a current diagnosis. A study with 9,282 individuals from 2006 found that 7.3% met the DSM-5 criteria for IED at some point in their lifetime, while 3.9% met the requirements in the past 12 months. 
Causes of Intermittent Explosive Disorder (IED Disorder)
What causes IED disorder? There are many different contributing factors to intermittent explosive disorder, including genetic, physical, and environmental variables. Below are a few instances of these various elements.:
- Genetic: Although it has been suggested that the characteristics of this condition are passed down from parents to their offspring, no one gene has been found to have a major influence on the emergence of IED.
- Physical: Studies has suggested that irregularities in the brain regions that control arousal and inhibition may be the cause of intermittent explosive disorder. Impulsive aggression may be related to abnormal brain mechanisms inhibiting or prohibiting muscular activity through serotonin. Those with intermittent explosive disorder may have a varied composition of serotonin, which transmits chemical signals throughout the brain.
- Environmental: The environment in which a person is raised has a big impact on whether or not they have IED symptoms. It has been proposed that children who experience harsh punishment as children are more prone to develop an IED as adults. The assumption is that these kids will behave aggressively as their first response to something bad, following their parents’ lead. Another theory is that if children endure harsh physical punishments, they may find a sense of redemption in putting others through the same form of physical pain.
IED Disorder Risk Factors
- Being male.
- Exposure to violence at an early age.
- Exposure to explosive behaviors at home (e.g., angry outbursts from parents or siblings).
- Having experienced physical trauma.
- Having experienced emotional trauma.
- History of substance abuse.
- Certain medical conditions.
The environment in which a person is raised has a big impact on whether or not they have IED symptoms. It has been proposed that children who experience harsh punishment as children are more prone to develop an IED as adults. The assumption is that these kids will behave aggressively as their first response to something bad, following their parents’ lead.
Effects of Intermittent Explosive Disorder (IED Disorder)
IED can have terrible effects on people who have it, but it depends on the individual’s particular symptoms and behaviors. The repercussions of untreated intermittent explosive illness on people include the following:
- Impaired interpersonal relationships.
- Domestic or child abuse.
- Legal problems.
- Drug or alcohol addiction.
- Trouble at work, home, or school.
- Low self-esteem and self-loathing.
- Suicidal thoughts and behaviors.
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Intermittent Explosive Disorder & Co-Occurring Disorders
Is IED disorder a mental illness? Yes. The symptoms of the intermittent explosive disorder often directly mirror symptoms of various other diseases. Some of the most common mental disorders that co-occur with IED can include explosive anxiety disorder, bipolar explosive disorder, and the following:
- Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
- Conduct disorder.
- Oppositional defiant disorder (ODD).
- Bipolar disorder.
Effective Treatment for Intermittent Explosive Disorder (IED disorder treatment)
How to treat IED disorder? If you are looking for the best IED disorder treatment, take comfort in that, there are several intermittent explosive disorder treatment (IED disorder) options. The majority of the time, intermittent explosive disorder (IED disorder) is treated using many approaches. No single treatment is best for everyone with intermittent explosive disorder. IED disorder treatment generally includes talk therapy or IED disorder psychotherapy and medication.
IED Disorder Therapy
Seeing a counselor, psychologist, or therapist alone or in a group setting may help a person manage symptoms of IED. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) involves identifying harmful patterns, coping skills, relaxation techniques, and relapse education to deal with aggressive impulses. Cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) is a psychotherapeutic IED therapy that helps individuals understand the thoughts and feelings that influence behaviors. CBT for intermittent explosive disorder is commonly used to treat many disorders, including phobias, addiction, depression, and anxiety.
IED Disorder Medication for Explosive Anger
There aren’t any treatments for IED disorder that specifically treat explosive anger, however some medicines may help curb impulsive conduct or aggressiveness. These consist of:
- Antidepressants, in particular, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs).
- Mood stabilizers, including lithium, valproic acid, and carbamazepine.
- Antipsychotic drugs.
- Anti-anxiety drugs.
How is intermittent explosive disorder treated with medication? Research on “IED medication” or medication for intermittent explosive disorder is limited. However, fluoxetine, an SSRI better known by its brand name Prozac, was found to lessen impulsive-aggressive behaviors in people with IED, according to a 2009 study. The full effects of SSRIs might take up to three months of treatment, and after the drug is withdrawn, symptoms frequently return. In addition, not everyone responds to the drug.
IED Disorder Alternative Treatments
How to manage IED? Few studies have explored the effectiveness of alternative treatments and lifestyle changes for “IED behavior” and IED illness. Still, several interventions aren’t likely to have a negative impact. Some of these include:
- Adopting a balanced diet.
- Trying alternative therapies, such as acupressure, acupuncture, or massage.
- Practicing meditation or other mindfulness techniques.
- Avoiding alcohol, drugs, and cigarettes.
- Reducing and managing sources of stress.
- Making time for relaxing activities, such as listening to music.
- Getting enough sleep.
- Staying physically active.
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What are IED Disorder Complications?
I E D disorder symptoms can impact your close relationships and everyday activities. Maintaining stable and encouraging relationships can be challenging when there are frequent conflicts and increased aggressive conduct. Moreover, IED occurrences can seriously injure families. In addition, there may be repercussions for your violent behavior at work, school, or while driving. Possible complications include job loss, expulsion from school, car accidents, and financial and legal repercussions. People with IED mental health symptoms are at an increased risk of having other psychological and physical health issues. Some of these include:
- IED and ADHD
- Alcohol or substance misuse.
- Other risky or impulsive behaviors, such as problem gambling or unsafe sex.
- Eating disorders.
- Self-harm and suicide.
- Chronic headaches.
- High blood pressure.
- Heart disease.
- Chronic pain.
Intermittent Explosive Disorder Test for Adults
The best way to diagnose Intermittent Explosive Disorder is through talking with a mental health professional. This involves describing your symptoms and behaviors and possibly answering questions, such as the ones on the Intermittent Explosive Disorder Self-Test, which can be found online.
There isn’t a definitive test for intermittent explosive disorder for adults (IED disorder test). IED disorder was first presented as a psychiatric disorder in the third edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) in 1980. A screening tool for the condition is called the intermittent explosive disorder test for adults. The IED screening questionnaire (IED-SQ) tool can assess your risk of developing an IED. Also, it might be used to identify symptoms and decide whether further testing is required.
However, the IED-SQ doesn’t provide an official diagnosis. IED disorder test only determines the likelihood that your symptoms are due to IED. IED diagnosis is made by a mental health professional. They’ll use numerous methods and intermittent explosive disorder tests for adults to make a diagnosis.
IED Disorder Explosive anger disorder test will likely include:
- Medical History. To understand your physical and psychiatric history, a doctor will request information about your health history.
- Physical Examination. A general practitioner will look for possible physical IED causes of your symptoms. Your physical exam might include blood tests.
- Psychological Evaluation. You’ll discuss your behavior, emotions, and thoughts. This lets the mental health professional rule out other psychiatric conditions.
The criteria in the most recent DSM (DSM-5) edition will then be compared to your symptoms by your mental health expert. If you have one of the following symptoms, you will be given an IED diagnosis:
- Verbal or physical aggression toward things, animals, or other people, twice a week (on average) within three months, which doesn’t cause physical damage or injury.
- Three aggressive outbursts that cause harm or injury within 12 months.
According to the DSM-5, diagnosis of IED disorder must also involve outbursts that:
- Are out of proportion to the situation.
- Are not explained by another psychiatric disorder, like borderline personality disorder (BPD).
- Are not related to a medical condition or substance abuse.
- Are impulsive and not associated with another purpose, like obtaining money.
- Cause distress or disrupt your ability to work or maintain relationships.
Intermittent Explosive Disorder Test
Take the quiz below to learn more about your personal intermittent explosive disorder case. The IED Disorder test will help you to understand some non-natural behaviours.
Welcome to the Intermittent Explosive Disorder test, a tool to help you assess potential symptoms of sudden episodes of explosive rage or aggression. Please note that this test is not a medical diagnosis and if you have concerns about your mental health, it’s important to seek the advice of a licensed healthcare provider.
*By taking this free quiz, you may obtain your results online and in your email box. You’ll have the opportunity to opt-in to learn more about your symptoms, talk to a mental health consultant and join our newsletter. Rest assured your information is private and confidential. Results, consultations and assessment are provided without any cost to you and without any obligation. If you do not wish to provide your contact information, you may omit it during your quiz. Thank you for opting in and participating. To you best of health.
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Is IED Disorder Genetic?
Is IED hereditary? For some people, intermittent explosive disorder may run in their families. Research has shown that some people have a genetic propensity to acquiring IED, particularly in those with a first-degree family who has this illness.
IED Disorder vs ODD
Oppositional defiant disorder is defined as rebellious, hostile, and disobedient behavior, usually directed at authority figures. Intermittent explosive disorder is explosive outbursts of anger, often to the point of rage, that are disproportionate to the situation.
IED Disorder vs BPD
The core behavior in an IED disorder episode is impulsive aggression, modulated by limbic brain structure — mainly the amygdala and hippocampus. In borderline and antisocial personality disorder, amygdala and hippocampal volume are reduced. If you have BPD, you may experience intense negative emotions like rage. Bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder (BPD), and post-traumatic stress disorder can all be misdiagnosed as IED (PTSD).
IED Disorder ADHD Disorder
Several common characteristics of children with ADHD and intermittent explosive disorder put them at higher risk for developing and externalizing explosive behaviors. Poor impulse control, emotional dysregulation, irritability, and underlying mood disorders can all trigger explosive behaviors. According to research, while the risk of IED in those with ADHD is more significant than in those without ADHD, only a quarter of adolescents (24.5%) with lifetime ADHD were comorbid for lifetime IED, indicating that lifetime comorbidity with IED does not account for most cases of ADHD. The reverse was also true, with about an eighth of adolescents with lifetime IED (12.7%) having lifetime ADHD. 
While intermittent explosive disorder and ADHD commonly co-occur, intermittent explosive disorder and autism can also overlap. Adults diagnosed with autism disorders are prone to anger outbursts.
IED Disorder and Bipolar Disorder
Explosive bipolar disorder has been linked to increased agitation and aggressive behavior in some individuals. Still, for these individuals, aggressiveness is limited to manic and depressive episodes, whereas individuals with IED experience aggressive behavior even during neutral or positive mood periods.
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Journal Prompts For Mental Health
Journaling Prompts for Mental Health: Visual journaling, also known as art journaling, has a long history in art therapy and significantly helps people cope with stress and trauma rehabilitation. Due to his consistent visual journaling use, Carl Jung is frequently called the “poster person” for visual daily journal prompts for mental health in art therapy. Typically, he produced little circular drawings that, in his opinion, represented his inner thoughts and the collective unconscious’ archetypal domain.
How to Help Someone with Intermittent Explosive Disorder (IED Disorder)?
We Level Up FL treatment center provides world-class care with round-the-clock medical professionals available to help you cope. We work as an integrated team providing intermittent explosive disorder information and other aspects of mental health treatment. Make this your opportunity to reclaim your life.
Many people who have IEDs don’t seek intermittent explosive disorder treatment. But it’s nearly impossible to prevent the IED disorder causes and episodes of IED without professional help. Contact us today at We Level Up if you suspect you have an IED. Your call is private and confidential, and there is never any obligation.
5 Popular IED Intermittent Explosive Disorder Frequently Asked Questions
What causes intermittent explosive disorder (IED disorder)?
Exposure to violence and aggression during childhood, going through traumatic experiences, or being the victim of abuse and neglect are examples of some environmental factors that could bring about intermittent explosive disorder in children.
How to deal with intermittent explosive disorder?
Natural remedies for intermittent explosive disorder can help by improving self-care. Sleeping well, exercising, and practicing general stress management daily can help improve your frustration tolerance. Avoiding alcohol or recreational or illegal drugs. These substances can increase aggressiveness and the risk of explosive outbursts. Caffeine and intermittent explosive disorder are not a good combination, too, so limit your coffee.
How to treat intermittent explosive disorder?
Individual or group therapy sessions that focus on building skills can be helpful. A commonly used type of therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, helps people with the intermittent explosive disorder: Identify which situations or behaviors may trigger an aggressive response.
Is explosive intermittent disorder caused by trauma?
Yes. Traumas increase your risk of developing symptoms of intermittent explosive disorder. People abused as children or who experienced multiple traumatic events have an increased risk of intermittent explosive disorder.
What does a sample treatment plan for intermittent explosive disorder look like?
You must consult your healthcare professional if you believe you or your kid may have intermittent explosive disorder based on DSM-v criteria. They’ll probably suggest that you seek help from a mental health specialist who has experience distinguishing between intermittent explosive disorder and disruptive mood dysregulation disorder.
Search We Level Up FL Intermittent Explosive Disorder & Other Resources
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 Radwan K, Coccaro EF. Comorbidity of disruptive behavior disorders and intermittent explosive disorder. Child Adolesc Psychiatry Ment Health. 2020 May 28;14:24. DOI: 10.1186/s13034-020-00330-w. PMID: 32514306; PMCID: PMC7257202.
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