Intermittent Explosive Disorder or IED can be defined as a type of condition that chiefly characterizes sudden outbursts of rage, impulsive, aggressive, or violent behaviour in which one reacts grossly and irrationally out of proportion to the situation. It is a lesser-known psychological disorder that is often described as “flying into a rage for no reason.” While most people lose their temper or are aggressive once in a while, people suffering from IED often have recurring outbursts and might have sudden mood swings, throw temper tantrums, destroy property, show road rage or abuse others verbally or physically. Also Read: Obsessive Compulsive Disorder: Causes, Symptoms And Treatment

This sudden impulsive behaviour not only negatively impacts the relationships, work and school life but also have legal and financial consequences and can ultimately cause significant distress. Although IED is considered as a chronic disorder and can even continue for years, but the silver lining to the grey cloud is that it often reduces gradually with age. 
intermittent explosive


Intermittent Explosive Disorder usually surfaces in childhood after the age of 6-7 and may continue throughout teenage, adolescence and adulthood. Although the exact cause of this impulsive behaviour is yet unknown, certain environmental and biological factors may trigger it. Also Read: Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: Causes, Symptoms And Treatment

Risk Factors

Certain causative factors may increase the risk of IED.

Age: It is more common in people under the age of 40.

Gender: IED is commonly noticed in males than in females.

Experience: Individuals experiencing multiple traumatic events as a child are more at risk of getting this disorder.

Hereditary: In some cases, a genetic component may pass on the disorder from parents to children.

Environment: People growing up in families where violence, physical or verbal abuse and explosive behaviour are common are more prone to getting this disorder.

Brain Chemistry: Certain difference in the structure, function and chemistry of the brain may cause IED.

Health Conditions: Getting diagnosed with another mental condition or illness that causes impulsive or problematic behavior, including Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), Antisocial personality disorder or Borderline personality disorder may increase the chances of getting IED as well.


These explosive outbursts may occur suddenly without any warning and may last for 20-30 minutes. The violent aggression may be frequent in nature or be spaced by weeks, or months at a time with lesser verbal outbursts in between. The aggressive episodes are chiefly characterised by:

  • Yelling and shouting
  • Temper tantrums 
  • Intense arguments
  • Threats
  • Road rage
  • Rampages 
  • Punching walls or breaking plates
  • Damaging property
  • Physical violence, such as slapping or shoving
  • Assault 
  • Fights or brawls
  • Domestic violence

These episodes may often be accompanied by physical symptoms including:

  • Rage
  • Increased energy (adrenaline rush)
  • Heart Palpitations
  • Racing thoughts
  • Tingling
  • Irritability 
  • Tremors
  • Chest tightness
  • Muscle tension


If the condition is not addressed on time, it can often lead to:

  • Trouble at work, home or school
  • Impaired relationships
  • Sudden mood disorders
  • Alcohol abuse
  • Self-harm
  • Other health conditions like diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, ulcers, and chronic pain.

Diagnosis And Treatment

If you notice any of the above-mentioned health conditions or frequently notice aggressive disorder in your loved one, do consult a doctor right away to start the treatment at the earliest. The doctor usually does a thorough physical checkup, followed by acknowledging the patient's family and childhood experience of trauma and may also perform a few diagnostics to rule out other mental conditions. These include:

  • Psychological Evaluation
  • Check the criteria in the DSM-5


Treatment options usually differ from person to person depending upon the extent of aggression. Common treatment options usually involve psychotherapy (i.e. group therapy sessions that focus on building skills) and prescribed medications including anti-depressants and mood stabilizers.