What is Intermittent Explosive Disorder?

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  • Written By: Garry Crystal
  • Edited By: Niki Foster
  • Last Modified Date: 15 August 2019
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Intermittent explosive disorder (IED) is a mental disorder that effects a person’s impulse-control capability. A person who has intermittent explosive disorder becomes unusually aggressive and violent due to minor incidents. They can destroy property and harm others because of small incidents that are not in proportion to the aggression that they carry out.

Intermittent explosive disorder sufferers seem to have no control over their aggressive impulses. They are unable to stop themselves from becoming violent and are usually sincerely apologetic after the event. The impulse-control disorder is thought to be the same disorder that effects compulsive gamblers, kleptomaniacs and pyromaniacs.

In severe cases of intermittent explosive disorder, the sufferer has been known to commit murder or violent suicide. If intermittent explosive disorder is left untreated, the violence may continue to escalate. The symptoms of this behavior may first be seen in childhood and continue into adult life. The causes of intermittent explosive disorder are not currently known.

Intermittent explosive disorder is more common in men than in women. Women have been known to experience the disorder, but as part of pre-menstrual syndrome. Prior to an attack, sufferers have stated that they feel a tingling or sense of arousal, or even a great amount of tension. Once the attack is over, the sufferer is left with a feeling of immense relief. However, the sufferer soon realizes what he has done and feels remorseful or embarrassed about the damage he has caused.


Intermittent explosive disorder can greatly affect a person’s life. It can reduce one's ability to gain employment, especially in jobs that involve driving. It can cause the break down of relationships and lead to divorce. If the sufferer is of school age, her studies can be disrupted by the disorder, and suspension from school has been known to result.

Although there is no way to prevent intermittent explosive disorder, there are treatments available to help sufferers live with it. These are mainly therapy treatments. Drugs can be administered, including anti depressants and mood stabilizers. Courses of therapy including behavior and mood modification have also been known to help. With developments and research into the disorder still ongoing, more help should become available in the future.


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