Intermittent Explosive Disorder

Angry Man

Defining Intermittent Explosive Disorder

Intermittent Explosive Disorder is a behavioral disorder characterized by extreme fits of rage and uncontrollable aggression which are usually disproportionate to the situation. The aggression is not premeditated and the provocation is usually perceived by others in most cases. People with such disorders tend to break objects, throw things, and attack people at hand. People suffering from this disorder usually feel remorse and guilt for their actions once they have committed the actions, and they may feel regret and face constant distress because of their condition. 

Explosive assaults and “fits” of rage usually last for a period of 30 minutes before the person comes back to senses. These episodes of rage may occur over a period of weeks, even months. In most cases, these fits have no real underlying reason for their occurrence and may remain untreated for a very long time. It may also become difficult to diagnose minor explosive disorders because it is “normal” for people to get angry at times. Some other behavioral disorders areObsessive Compulsive Disorder, Panic Disorder, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Acute Stress Disorder, etc.

Signs and Symptoms of Intermittent Explosive Disorder

  • Irritability
  • Rage
  • Tingling
  • Racing thoughts Tremors
  • Palpitations
  • Depression, fatigue or relief may occur after the episode
  • Tension, mood changes, energy changes
  • Chest tightness
  • Feeling of pressure in the head

Causes and Risk Factors

While the exact causes of this disorder are unknown, like most behavioral disorders, it is attributed to different environmental and biological factors.

Environmental factors play a major role in shaping a person’s personality, and a negative environment (like a war zone) or a disturbed childhood can quickly make a person explosive in nature. Children who have been subject to physical and verbal abuse usually grow up to be patients of this disorder. Such people are also susceptible to domestic violence and usually have a whimsical behavior.

Genetics also play a vital role in molding a person’s behavioral traits. While children whose parents suffer from this disorder may not really be faced with it, having a genetic history of intermittent explosive behavior does increase one’s chances of acquiring behavioral disorder at a later stage.

All these factors lead to the changes in the serotonin content in the brain. Serotonin is the neurotransmitter responsible for controlling and managing the “mood swings” of a human being and an imbalance of this chemical in the brain can result in frequent mood swings, irritability and aggression, all of which are extreme in those with Intermittent Explosive Disorder.

People with this disorder are at risk of facing physical and psychological long-term consequences. It may impact personal and professional relationships as well as affect overall mood and behavior. Patients of this disrder are exposed to a number of risks including:

  • Substance abuse: patients tend to take on substance abuse because they usually suffer from distress
  • Aggression-related accidents: Patients’ actions are not under their control during these fits and they may end up seriously injuring themselves, cause damage to property around them or end up injuring someone in their vicinity
  • Increased susceptibility to being convicted for crimes
  • Domestic violence
  • Lack of social skills


Psychotherapy and medication are the two ways in which one can treat and control the fits from time to time. Breathing exercises and meditation help in controlling the racing heart beats and the fits of momentary rage that patients face. CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) is one of the most widely administered psychotherapies on patients and it is targeted at controlling inappropriate responses in people before the responses show up.

Patients suffering from acute aggressive explosive disorder may need to take admission in a mental rehab center and undergo a long treatment process to overcome their condition. Such centers are really helpful in providing professional treatment to the patients.


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