What is intermittent explosive disorder?

Intermittent explosive disorder is a lesser-known mental disorder marked by episodes of unwarranted anger. It is commonly described as “flying into a rage for no reason.” In an individual with intermittent explosive disorder, the behavioral outbursts are out of proportion to the situation.

How common is intermittent explosive disorder?

It is estimated that between one to seven percent of individuals will develop intermittent explosive disorder during their lifetime.

Who is affected by intermittent explosive disorder?

Intermittent explosive disorder usually begins in the early teens, but can be seen in children as young as six. It is most common in people under the age of 40.

What causes intermittent explosive disorder?

The cause of intermittent explosive disorder is unknown, but some contributing factors have been identified. They include:

  • A genetic component (occurs in families)
  • Being exposed to verbal and physical abuse in childhood
  • Brain chemistry (varying levels of serotonin) can contribute to the disorder
  • Having experienced one or more traumatic events in childhood
  • A history of mental health disorders, including attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), antisocial personality disorder, borderline personality disorder
  • Nearly 82 percent of those with intermittent explosive disorder have also had depression, anxiety or substance abuse disorder

What are the signs of intermittent explosive disorder?

Intermittent explosive disorder manifests itself in what seems like adult temper tantrums. Throwing objects, fighting for no reason, road rage and domestic abuse are examples of intermittent explosive disorder. The outbursts typically last less than 30 minutes. After an outburst, an individual may feel a sense of relief – followed by regret and embarrassment.

What are the symptoms of intermittent explosive disorder?

Individual experiencing intermittent explosive disorder may display one of more of the following symptoms:

  • Rage
  • Irritability
  • Increasing sense of tension
  • Racing thoughts
  • Increased energy
  • Tremors
  • Palpitations
  • Chest tightness
  • Temper tantrums
  • Shouting
  • Being argumentative
  • Getting into fights
  • Threatening others
  • Assaulting people or animals
  • Damaging property

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