Signs and Symptoms of Intermittent Explosive Disorder

November 12, 2012

Signs and Symptoms of Intermittent Explosive Disorder

Most people experience occasional outbursts of anger and rage. However, people with intermittent explosive disorder may have repeated episodes of aggressive, violent behavior that cannot be explained in the given circumstances.


Individuals with intermittent explosive disorder experience short episodes of aggressive behavior that may last for 10 to 20 minutes. Many such episodes may occur together or be separated by long periods of non-aggressive behavior. Most patients are unable to resist their violent impulses that may result in assault and injury. The condition may manifest in form of road rage, domestic abuse, or temper tantrums involving throwing or breaking of objects.

The extent of aggressive behavior is disproportionate to the actual provocation. Many patients with conditions such as antisocial personality disorder, borderline personality disorder, psychotic disorder and manic episode and conduct disorder may also experience similar episodes of violent behavior. Your psychologist will rule out these conditions before confirming a diagnosis of intermittent explosive behavior. It is important to note that the spells of aggressive behavior are not due to medications or drugs. The episodes should be preceded by irritability, increased energy, tingling, tremors, palpitations, headaches and chest tightness.

Most individuals with intermittent explosive disorder may often regret their behavior and be remorseful about it. However, they are unable to control their impulses next time around.

Characteristic Features

The main characteristic feature of intermittent explosive behavior is the independent, discrete episodes of aggressive behavior that can lead to assault or injury. Your psychologist must also be able to establish the fact that this behavior is not proportionate to the circumstances around the individual. Other mental disorders or chemical substances should not explain the aggressive or violent behavior.


While the exact cause of intermittent explosive behavior is unknown, most experts believe that a variety of biological and environmental factors may play a role in the development of the condition. A family history of aggressive behavior or exposure to violent behavior at a young age can increase the risk of intermittent explosive disorder. Your genetics as well as serotonin levels may also influence the development of this condition.

Treatment may involve antidepressant or anticonvulsant medications, and mood regulators such as propranolol and lithium. Your doctor may also recommend cognitive behavioral therapy that helps individuals with intermittent explosive disorder to identify the situations and triggers that cause the aggressive behavior. Behavior therapy and psychotherapy may teach the patient some techniques to manage the condition.


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