What is Intermittent Explosive Disorder?

A mental health condition which is identified as one of several impulse control disorders IED (intermittent explosive disorder is marked by sudden, frequent outbursts of anger or aggression where a person completely loses control.  This can occur for no obvious reason, and they can become physically violent.  It can affect people from as young as six but rarely over the age of 40 and is more common in men than women and usually decreases in severity with age.


There is no known single cause for IED, and research is still ongoing to find its exact cause.  It is believed that several factors can lead to its development which include:

·      Having a family history of the condition

·      If you have suffered childhood abuse either verbal or physical

·      Have had one or more traumatic events in your childhood

·      Differences in brain function, structure or chemistry like changing levels of serotonin

·      Are male or under the age of forty

·      Suffer from other mental health conditions such as ADHD, borderline personality disorder, antisocial personality disorder, substance abuse disorder or depression


An IED episode can happen at any time and can vary in length and severity depending on the individual.  Some people can have episodes daily whilst others may not have any for weeks or months at a time, typically episodes last no more than thirty minutes and can include the following symptoms:

·      High energy levels

·      Road rage

·      Sudden anger or aggression

·      Tingling, tremors, palpitations or tightness of the chest

·      Feelings of frustration, irritability or confused thoughts

·      Picking fights

·      Shouting or using abusive language

·      Threatening people verbally

·      Damaging people’s property

·      Becoming physically violent, slapping, shoving or committing assault

Associated Conditions or Risks

If left undiagnosed or untreated IED can lead to anxiety, depression and alcohol or substance abuse as well as self-harming and suicide.  Suffers can also display impulsive behaviours which can lead to things like gambling and engaging in unsafe sex.


Whilst there have been few studies on the effectiveness of lifestyle changes and alternative therapies they are unlikely to have a negative effect and can prove useful in reducing anger.

These include things like ensuring you get sufficient sleep, maintain a healthy diet and exercise regularly, avoid alcohol, drugs and cigarettes.  Managing your stress levels by learning relaxation techniques, using mindfulness or meditation or trying alternative therapies like acupuncture or massage.

Professional Help

You should consult your doctor if you are concerned about your mental health as they can rule out any underlying physical condition that may be causing your symptoms.  Once your diagnosis has been made your doctor can prescribe a range of medications that can help, these can include antidepressants, antipsychotics, anticonvulsants, antianxiety medications and mood stabilisers.

It can take several weeks for some of these medications to work and as psychotherapy is the best treatment for the condition they should recommend you see a suitable mental health expert.  They will suggest therapies such as CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) which will help you to recognise and unlearn your negative thoughts and behaviours, to manage negative situations and help prevent aggressive impulses.  Written by Jan, Jeana and Wendy at Barnsley Hypnosis and Counselling (UK). For more free Information click above link.