Intermittent Explosive Disorder (IED Disorder), Symptoms & Treatment

Intermittent Explosive Disorder (IED) is a psychological condition characterized by recurrent episodes of explosive outbursts, often accompanied by intense anger, aggression, and a loss of self-control. Beyond mere “temper tantrums,” these outbursts can have far-reaching consequences for both individuals and those around them. In this article, we delve into the depths of IED, exploring its causes, symptoms, and the potential impact it has on individuals’ lives. By shedding light on this often misunderstood disorder, we hope to foster greater empathy and awareness for those affected by the tempestuous nature of IED.

What Is Intermittent Explosive Disorder (IED)?

Intermittent Explosive Disorder (IED) is a psychiatric disorder characterized by recurrent episodes of impulsive, aggressive behavior. Individuals with Intermittent Explosive Disorder experience sudden and intense outbursts of anger or aggression disproportionate to the situation. These outbursts may involve verbal or physical aggression, property destruction, or other violent acts.

The key feature of IED is the inability to control aggressive impulses, leading to a loss of self-control during the episodes. These explosive episodes are typically brief, lasting less than 30 minutes, but they can significantly impact the individual’s personal relationships, occupational functioning, and overall quality of life.

IED is diagnosed when these aggressive outbursts occur repeatedly and are not better explained by another mental disorder or a physiological condition. The disorder often emerges during late childhood or adolescence but can persist into adulthood if left untreated.

While the exact causes of IED are not fully understood, factors such as genetic predisposition, environmental influences, and abnormalities in brain structure and function may contribute to its development. Treatments for IED may include psychotherapy, medication, and anger management techniques to help individuals control their impulses and reduce the frequency and severity of explosive episodes.

Understanding and addressing Intermittent Explosive Disorder is crucial for improving the lives of individuals affected by this condition and promoting a safer and more compassionate society.

7 Signs Of Intermittent Explosive Disorder

  1. Frequent Explosive Outbursts: One of the main signs of Intermittent Explosive Disorder is recurrent explosive outbursts. A sudden and intense display of anger or aggression disproportionate to the situation characterizes these outbursts.
  2. Verbal or Physical Aggression: During these outbursts, individuals with IED may engage in verbal attacks, shouting, screaming, or physical aggression toward others or objects. This behavior may result in harm to others or property damage.
  3. Rapid Onset of Anger: Individuals with IED often experience a rapid onset of anger. They may go from feeling calm to experiencing intense rage within a short period, sometimes triggered by seemingly minor frustrations or conflicts.
  4. Lack of Control: A hallmark of IED is the inability to control aggressive impulses during explosive episodes. Individuals may feel a loss of control over their emotions, words, or actions, regretting their behavior afterward.
  5. Intense Emotional Response: The emotional response during an episode of IED is typically intense. Individuals may feel overwhelmed by anger, frustration, or injustice, leading to explosive and impulsive reactions.
  6. Physical Symptoms: Physical symptoms may accompany an episode of IED, such as a racing heart, trembling, sweating, or a sensation of heat in the body. These physiological responses can contribute to the severity of the outburst.
  7. Negative Impact on Relationships and Functioning: Individuals with IED often experience significant difficulties in their personal relationships, social interactions, and occupational functioning. The frequent explosive outbursts can strain relationships, lead to social isolation, and even result in legal or financial consequences.

It’s important to note that experiencing occasional anger or frustration does not necessarily indicate IED. A diagnosis requires the presence of recurrent, uncontrollable explosive episodes that significantly disrupt daily life. If you or someone you know exhibits these signs, seeking professional evaluation and support from a mental health provider is advisable.

Intermittent Explosive Disorder (IED Disorder) Facts

IED Disorder vs Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder

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, the intermittent explosive disorder must show symptoms for only three months, unlike 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.

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 IEDs 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.

End the Emotional Pain. Get Your Life Back.

Feeling Depressed, Anxious or Struggling with Mental Health Illness? Get Safe Comfortable Mental Health Dual Diagnosis High-Quality Therapy From Counselors That Care. Begin Your Recovery Now.

Hotline: (509) 348-4077
Holding Hands
Holding Hands

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.


Research shows 1.4% to 7% of people in the USA suffer from intermittent explosive disorder.

Source: NIH


Nearly two-thirds of young adults (63.3%) reported lifetime anger attacks that involved destroying property, threatening violence, or engaging in violence. 

Source: NIH


Intermittent explosive disorder affects around 7.3% of adults at some point throughout their lifetimes.

Source: NIH

Get Help. Get Better. Get Your Life Back.

Searching for Accredited Dual Diagnosis Mental Health Centers Near You?

Even if therapy failed previously, or are in the middle of a difficult crisis, we stand ready to support you. Our trusted behavioral health specialists will not give up on you. When you feel ready or just want someone to speak to about counseling alternatives to change your life call us. Even if we cannot assist you, we will lead you to wherever you can get support. There is no obligation. Call our hotline today.

FREE 24/7 Dual Diagnosis Mental Health Services Hotline

What Causes Intermittent Explosive Disorder?

The exact causes of Intermittent Explosive Disorder (IED) are not fully understood, but it is believed to result from a combination of genetic, environmental, and neurobiological factors. Here are some potential factors that may contribute to the development of IED:

  1. Genetic Predisposition: Evidence suggests that genetic factors play a role in developing IED. It is believed that certain genetic variations may influence the regulation of emotions and impulse control, making individuals more susceptible to explosive outbursts.
  2. Neurobiological Factors: Abnormalities in brain structure and function have been observed in individuals with IED. Dysfunction in areas of the brain involved in emotional regulation, such as the prefrontal cortex and amygdala, may contribute to difficulty controlling aggressive impulses.
  3. Environmental Factors: Certain environmental factors may contribute to the development of IED. These can include a history of childhood abuse or neglect, growing up in a violent or chaotic environment, exposure to aggressive role models, or experiencing chronic stress or trauma.
  4. Learned Behavior: Individuals with IED may learn maladaptive coping strategies and aggressive behavior patterns due to observing or experiencing aggression in their environment. These learned behaviors can contribute to the manifestation of explosive outbursts.
  5. Co-occurring Mental Health Disorders: IED commonly co-occurs with other mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety disorders, substance use disorders, or personality disorders. These conditions may exacerbate the symptoms of IED or interact with its underlying causes.

It’s important to note that while these factors may increase the risk of developing IED, not everyone exposed to these factors will develop the disorder. The interplay of various genetic and environmental factors is complex and unique to each individual.

Understanding the causes of IED is crucial for effective diagnosis and treatment. Mental health professionals can provide a comprehensive evaluation and help individuals develop coping strategies, improve emotion regulation skills, and address underlying factors contributing to the disorder.

Understanding the causes of Intermittent Explosive Disorder is crucial for effective diagnosis and treatment.
Understanding the causes of Intermittent Explosive Disorder is crucial for effective diagnosis and treatment.

Intermittent Explosive Disorder Symptoms

  • Premonitory Tension: Before an outburst, individuals with IED may experience a build-up of tension, irritability, or a sense of restlessness. This premonitory tension can serve as a warning sign that an explosive episode is imminent.
  • Impulsivity: Impulsivity is a common trait among individuals with IED. They may act on aggressive impulses without considering the consequences, leading to impulsive actions or verbal outbursts.
  • Verbal Aggression: Besides physical aggression, individuals with IED may engage in intense and hurtful verbal attacks. They may use offensive or derogatory language towards others during episodes of anger or aggression.
  • Self-Directed Aggression: Some individuals with IED may exhibit self-directed aggression during or after an outburst. This can involve self-harm, such as hitting oneself or banging one’s head against objects due to overwhelming emotions.
  • Emotional Distress: Between episodes, individuals with IED may experience significant emotional distress, such as guilt, shame, or embarrassment related to their explosive behavior. They may also have difficulty understanding or explaining why they reacted so strongly.
  • Relationship Instability: The disruptive nature of IED can lead to instability in personal relationships. Individuals may have a history of strained relationships, frequent conflicts, or a pattern of pushing people away due to their explosive behavior.
  • Limited Aggression Control: People with IED often struggle to manage and control their aggressive impulses. They may try to control their anger but find it challenging to do so effectively, leading to recurrent outbursts.

It’s important to note that not all individuals with IED will display every symptom listed, and the severity of symptoms can vary. A comprehensive evaluation by a qualified mental health professional is necessary for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment planning.

First-class Facilities & Amenities

World-class High-Quality Mental Health Services & Behaviroal Health Substance Abuse Treatment

Rehab Centers Tour

Renowned Mental Health Centers. Serene Private Facilities. Inpatient Rehab Programs Vary.

Mental Health Helpline: (509) 348-4077

Proven recovery success experience, backed by a Team w/ History of:


Years of Unified Experience


5-Star Reviews Across Our Centers


Recovery Success Stories Across Our Network

  • Low Patient to Therapist Ratio
  • Comprehensive Dual-Diagnosis Treatment
  • Complimentary Family & Alumni Programs
  • Coaching, Recovery & Development Events
  • Comfortable Onsite Medical Detox Center

Intermittent Explosive Disorder Treatment

Treatment for Intermittent Explosive Disorder (IED) typically involves a combination of psychotherapy, medication, and anger management techniques. The goal of treatment is to help individuals with IED manage their anger, improve impulse control, and reduce the frequency and severity of explosive outbursts. Here are common approaches to IED treatment:

  • Psychotherapy: Psychotherapy, particularly cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), is commonly used to treat IED. CBT helps individuals identify and change negative thought patterns and behaviors contributing to explosive episodes. It focuses on developing coping strategies, managing anger, and improving communication and problem-solving abilities.
Treatment for Intermittent Explosive Disorder (IED) typically involves a combination of psychotherapy, medication, and anger management techniques.
Treatment for Intermittent Explosive Disorder (IED) typically involves a combination of psychotherapy, medication, and anger management techniques.
  • Medication: Medication may be prescribed to help manage symptoms associated with IED. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), mood stabilizers, and antipsychotics are commonly used medications. These medications can help regulate mood, reduce aggression, and improve impulse control. The specific medication and dosage depend on individual needs and should be discussed with a healthcare professional.
  • Anger Management Techniques: Learning effective anger management techniques can benefit individuals with IED. These techniques may include relaxation exercises, deep breathing, mindfulness practices, and assertiveness training. They help individuals recognize early signs of anger, manage triggers, and respond more adaptively.
  • Stress Reduction: Stress can contribute to the intensity of explosive episodes, so stress reduction techniques are crucial in IED treatment. This can involve lifestyle changes, such as incorporating regular exercise, practicing good sleep hygiene, and engaging in activities that promote relaxation and self-care.
  • Supportive Therapy: Supportive therapy, such as individual or group counseling, can provide a safe space for individuals with IED to discuss their experiences, express emotions, and receive support from others who understand their challenges. Supportive therapy can help reduce feelings of isolation, enhance self-esteem, and foster a sense of community.

It’s important to remember that treatment approaches may vary depending on individual circumstances and preferences. Collaborating with a qualified mental health professional is essential for creating a personalized treatment plan that addresses the unique needs and goals of the individual with IED.

Intermittent Explosive Disorder Medication

Medication can be an important component of treatment for Intermittent Explosive Disorder (IED) when deemed necessary by a healthcare professional. Here are some medications commonly used in the management of IED:

  1. Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs): SSRIs, such as fluoxetine (Prozac), sertraline (Zoloft), or escitalopram (Lexapro), are commonly prescribed to individuals with IED. These medications help regulate serotonin levels in the brain, which can improve mood, reduce impulsivity, and help control aggressive behaviors.
  2. Mood Stabilizers: Mood stabilizers like lithium or valproic acid may be prescribed to individuals with IED, especially if they also experience mood swings or exhibit signs of other mood disorders. These medications help stabilize mood, reduce irritability, and control impulsive behaviors.
  3. Antipsychotics: In some cases, antipsychotic medications such as risperidone (Risperdal) or aripiprazole (Abilify) may be prescribed to individuals with IED. These medications can help manage aggression and impulsivity and stabilize mood by targeting specific brain receptors.

It’s important to note that medication should be prescribed and managed by a qualified healthcare professional, such as a psychiatrist or psychiatric nurse practitioner, who can evaluate the individual’s symptoms, medical history, and overall treatment plan. Medication is often combined with psychotherapy and other therapeutic interventions to provide comprehensive treatment for IED.

It’s also crucial to discuss medication’s potential benefits, side effects, and risks with the prescribing healthcare professional. Regular monitoring and follow-up appointments are typically necessary to assess the effectiveness of the medication and make any adjustments as needed.

Vitamins For Intermittent Explosive Disorder

While no specific vitamins have been proven to treat or cure Intermittent Explosive Disorder (IED), maintaining a balanced and nutritious diet can support overall mental health and well-being. Adequate intake of essential vitamins and minerals is important for optimal brain function and emotional regulation. Here are some vitamins and nutrients that play a role in mental health:

  1. Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Omega-3 fatty acids, found in fatty fish (such as salmon and tuna), walnuts, flaxseeds, and chia seeds, have been associated with improved mood and reduced inflammation in the brain. While more research is needed on their direct impact on IED, including omega-3-rich foods in your diet may have general mental health benefits.
  2. B Vitamins: B vitamins, including B6, B12, and folate, are involved in neurotransmitter synthesis and energy production in the body. These vitamins are in whole grains, leafy green vegetables, legumes, eggs, and dairy products. Adequate B vitamin intake supports overall brain function and may indirectly contribute to emotional stability.
  3. Vitamin D: Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to various mental health conditions. While the direct relationship between vitamin D and IED is not well-established, maintaining optimal vitamin D levels through sunlight exposure or supplementation is important for overall mental health and well-being.

It’s important to note that vitamins and nutrients should not replace appropriate medical treatment for IED. If you are considering taking vitamin supplements, it is advisable to consult with a healthcare professional or registered dietitian who can assess your specific nutritional needs and provide guidance on appropriate supplementation.

Addressing IED typically requires a comprehensive approach that includes therapy, medication (if prescribed), lifestyle modifications, and maintaining a healthy diet.

World-class, Accredited, 5-Star Reviewed, Effective Mental Health Dual Diagnosis Programs. Complete Integrated Inpatient Rehab with Free Post Discharge Therapy Planning.

Hotline: (509) 348-4077

End the Emotional Pain Rollercoaster. Gain Stability & Happiness Through Recovery Treatment. Start Mental Health Counseling Today. Get Free No-obligation Guidance by Behaviroal Health Specialists Who Understand Mental Health Recovery.

  1. Does an Intermittent Explosive Disorder Test Work?

    No specific test or diagnostic tool can definitively diagnose Intermittent Explosive Disorder (IED). However, mental health professionals, such as psychiatrists or psychologists, can conduct a comprehensive evaluation to assess symptoms, medical history, and the impact of explosive outbursts on daily functioning. This evaluation typically involves a thorough clinical interview, assessment of symptoms and severity, and consideration of other possible explanations for the behavior. While no test can directly confirm IED, a professional evaluation is essential for an accurate diagnosis.

  2. Is The Treatment For Intermittent Explosive Disorder Effective?

    Treatment options for Intermittent Explosive Disorder are available and can effectively manage symptoms and improve overall functioning. The most common approaches include a combination of psychotherapy, medication, and anger management techniques.

8 Steps & Tips for Maintaining Your Mental Wellbeing Informative Video

Video Script

The mental health center We Level Up WA is a state-of-the-art facility offering specialized and cutting-edge behavioral recovery therapy programs. The center has modern amenities designed to provide innovative treatments for mental health conditions. Set in a serene environment with well-maintained surroundings, it offers outdoor relaxation areas that serve as peaceful spaces for rejuvenation. The center focuses on science-based mental health treatments tailored to each client, ensuring highly personalized care and support.

Experience Transformative Recovery at the We Level Up Treatment Center.

See our authentic success stories. Get inspired.
Get the help you deserve.

We Level Up Treatment Centers for Drug Alcohol Rehab Detox Behavioral Mental Health Dual Diagnosis Therapy
We Level Up Treatment Centers for Drug Alcohol Rehab Detox Behavioral Mental Health Dual Diagnosis Therapy
We Level Up Treatment Centers for Drug Alcohol Rehab Detox Behavioral Mental Health Dual Diagnosis Therapy

Start a New Life

Begin with a free call to a behavioral health treatment advisor. Learn more about our dual-diagnosis programs. The We Level Up treatment center network delivers recovery programs that vary by each treatment facility. Call to learn more.

  • Personalized Care
  • Caring Accountable Staff
  • World-class Amenities
  • Licensed & Accredited
  • Renowned w/ 5-Star Reviews

We’ll Call You

Search We Level Up WA / Intermittent Explosive Disorder & Resources
  1. National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) – Intermittent Explosive Disorder:
  2. National Institutes of Health (NIH) – Intermittent Explosive Disorder:
  3. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) – Intermittent Explosive Disorder Fact Sheet:
  4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) – Mental Health – Impulsive Aggression:
  5. National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) – Intermittent Explosive Disorder:
  6. U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs – Intermittent Explosive Disorder:
  7. National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) – Intermittent Explosive Disorder:
  8. Office of Women’s Health – Intermittent Explosive Disorder:
  9. National Library of Medicine – Intermittent Explosive Disorder:
  10. Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) – Mental Health Services Locator:

Table of Contents