Intermittent explosive disorder (IED)

Intermittent explosive disorder (IED)

Intermittent explosive disorder (IED) is categorized as a behavior disorder.

In this article, we are discussing a condition characterized by short episodes of inconsistent anger, often injuring people or damaging things.

Introduction

IED is rare in adults, but its main onsets are usually in either early childhood or adolescence.

This can greatly affect the child’s or a person’s social life, relationships with friends, spouse, and parents. 

Explosive outbursts during an Intermittent explosive episode can cause a lot of suffering, harmful impact a person’s life, and can also have negative consequences. 

The intermittent explosive disorder can be because of various triggers and childhood traumas, altered brain chemistry and some specialists argue that one cause of an IED can also genetics.

There are different combinations of treatments for Intermittent explosive disorder, depending on the severity of the case.

Mainly psychotherapy and medication are used to control impulsive behavior with sudden outbursts. 

Intermittent Explosive disorder is very rare in adults, but it is usually diagnosed by outbursts of anger, hate, violence, and aggression.

In some cases, the person or child might also injure small animals and physically hurt others.

During these anger fits one might not find a logical reason for their fury. 

Children with intermittent explosive disorder (IED) have episodes of short, uncontrollable anger outbursts.

Symptoms

These illogical eruptions of emotion and out-rage can take up many forms, and a few of them might indicate that the child might have an Intermittent explosive disorder.  

  • Loud, aggressive talk, screaming for no reason or shouting.
  • Forcing their opinions and arguments, often illogical in an aggressive manner. 
  • annoyance and anger tantrums.
  • Terrorization, and threatening to hurt another person or you. 
  • Will drive aggressively, or cycle uncontrollably crashing into things or people on purpose.
  • Breaking things that matter to people. 
  • Breaking dishes.
  • Wreckage and destruction often being pleasurable
  • Slapping, hurting, pushing friends, or siblings. 
  • Will end up in fights, will often start the physical fighting.
  • Abusive towards parents, siblings, children, and spouses. Often will be involved in domestic violence. 

These sudden anger spells can occur without any warning and logic, and they are extremely short-lived, it might last around 15 minutes to half an hour.

The above-stated symptoms might surface along with certain physical symptoms too. 

  • Hyper energy 
  • Painful headaches
  • Increased heart rates and high blood pressure
  • Tremors and shivers 
  • chest pains and tightness
  • In very rare cases redness of the skin or face 

After an Intermittent explosive episode, the person might go into a guilt trip a few minutes after the episode.

They will regret what they just did and might be extremely apologetic for their behavior. 

The people who go through an episode of a sudden outburst of anger report complete or partial emotional detachment from the situation or time frame. 

The intermittent explosive disorder has patterns that are subjective and vary from person to person.

The pattern or episode can be regular, irregular, occur after weeks or months of normal behavior. 

In some patients, the physically violent episode might be followed by verbal outbursts.

A child or a person suffering from IED can be not understood by their parents, friends and relatives easily.

And hence always feeling judged and misunderstood.

This can particularly add to the trauma of the child or patient, and they might be further annoyed. 

Children have mood swings all the time. Normal children might show annoyance when hurt, sick, or in pain.

Children with Intermittent disorder might seem like they are moody, or aggressive and due to the growing age and physical and hormonal changes, these mood swings might seem normal at first.

And because IED is behavioral and works on a certain pattern, the anger is not permanent, but episodic it becomes difficult to diagnose.

When deeply looked at, they might be symptoms for IED. 

Causes

The intermittent disorder is often caused by many factors.

These can be because of an external stimulus, trauma, brain chemistry alteration or plain genetics. 

External or environmental factors

Being exposed to war and gang violence, violent behavior, domestic violence for a long time as a child might result in a child developing Intermittent explosive disorder as a child.

The mind of a child is fragile, and it often adopt habits and trends from surroundings. 

Stress and vulnerability while growing up might also be a factor.

If a child is violently abused or bullied in school, they might develop impulsive behaviors with uncontrollable bouts of anger. 

Genetics. 

Study and research show that some of the mental disorders might have an inherent pattern to it.

Some parts of the genes responsible for Intermittent explosive disorder might be passed down from a parent to a child. 

Altered brain chemistry

Some mental illnesses affect brain chemistry and structure, MRIs, and brain scans show the physical alterations of the brain due to illnesses like schizophrenia.

People with Intermittent explosive disorder often have an altered brain physicality or chemistry and in some cases, both.

This could be due to some other mental disorder, head injury or genetics. 

Who is at Risk?

People and children who have been traumatized as children, and often have a history of physical and sexual abuse as children are more at risk of having Intermittent explosive disorder.

Children exposed to violence, crime, domestic violence, and war.

A higher risk of IED also affects people with other mental disorders and behavioral disorders like attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), Schizophrenia, mania etc. 

Some Useful Resources

  • Rage: A Step-by-Step Guide to Overcoming Explosive Anger
  • Intermittent Explosive Disorder: Etiology, Assessment, and Treatment
  • Explosive Child, The: A New Approach For Understanding And Parenting Easily Frustrated, Chronically Inflexible Children
  • Intermittent Explosive Disorder: The Rage Within: From Toddler Tantrums to Teen Rage to Domestic Violence and Intimate Partner Abuse: Transcend Mediocrity, Book 59
  • How to Deal with Emotionally Explosive People
  • Nutrient Power: Heal Your Biochemistry and Heal Your Brain

Conclusion 

Intermittent Explosive Disorder is a serious mental condition.

People with IED often have a sudden outburst of anger and aggressive behavior that can be dangerous for people, friends, spouses, children and colleagues of the person.

There are high chances that the person who has IED has inherited it genetically, or it has surfaced due to a trigger in the environment. 

Childhood traumas are one of the causes of IED.

Although this is highly rare in adults, there are at risk for developing IED.

The main treatments for IED that are available are medications and therapy, often a combination of both helps to make it easier to mellow down the symptoms of IED. 

If you know someone who has episodes of anger without any reason for over stretches of time.

It might be best advised to get them professional help. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Q1. What causes IED?

The intermittent explosive disorder can be caused by various factors.

Long term exposure to violent enjoinment, triggers and traumatic events can also be a reason why some people might have IED. 

There can be external triggers where the person is unprotected against violence and hate.

Some children who have been in homes where domestic violence was a norm have shown traits and symptoms of IED.

IED might be inherited as a genetic condition from parents. It might also be due to changes in the brain physicality of chemistry. 

Q2. Can IED be cured?

There are different types of treatments for IED, but one has to understand that IED is a long-term illness, and it might not go away in a few days.

As IED affects the chemistry if the brain and hence making the treatment phase long and painful.

People suffering from IED might not realize that they have a problem and often wait months and most cases a decade to find out that their behavior is not normal and needs help with. 

People with violent impulses often do not go to seek medical help. Only a minority have been ever treated for IED.

Very few people, almost 20 percent of those diagnosed with IED have been treated. 

In the treatment process, medications and psychotherapy are both used in combination with an effective result.

Medicines are used to reduce aggressive episodes.

These include antidepressants (namely selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs), antipsychotic drugs. (lithium and anticonvulsants), mood stabilizers, and antipsychotic drugs.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is also helpful while treating people with IED.

Because people with IED have impulsive behavior, they might even discontinue their medication. 

Q3. Is IED genetic?

Studies show a strong link between behavioral impulses and genetic heredity.

Several genes linked with impulsive behavior alter the function of neurotransmitters.

This has been proven by a research published by the US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health research further states:

“Dopamine- and serotonin-releasing neurons are prominent in brain regions that regulate impulse control. Dysregulated activity of the monoamine neurotransmitters has been demonstrated to be involved in impulsivity in neuropharmacological, gene knockout, and genetic association studies.”

Although there are high chances that IED or impulsive behavior is inherited genetically from one’s parents.

But there can be other contributing factors as well. Like external factors, stimuli, violence, etc. 

Q5. How to help someone with Intermittent explosive disorder?

 If you know someone who might have an Intermittent explosive disorder, you should help them get an appointment with a doctor.

If the person you know is a child, you might want to consult a child psychologist for the best advice for further medication and care.

If the person you know is an adult, try not to interact with them physically to stop them or try to make them understand while they might be going through an episode.

This can be very dangerous for you.

If you are a spouse of a person who has an Intermittent explosive disorder, you might need to report any type of physical violence that you might suffer staying in a relationship with such a person.

Kindly call your national domestic violence support helpline at the earliest. 

Taking care of a person with IED takes a lot of patience and time. Because of the impulsive behavior and nature of the illness, it might be not easy to predict the patients’ next move. 

Q6. Can adults have IED?

It is very rare to be diagnosed with Intermittent explosive disorder as an adult.

5% of the people diagnosed are adults; the rest are usually children or adolescents. 

References: 

Intermittent explosive disorder (IED)

Juanita Agboola

Juanita Agboola is the editor in chief of HFNE and an expert in mental health online. She has been writing about online behavior, mental health and psychology issues since 2012. All Guides are reviewed by our editorial team which constitutes various clinical psychologists, PhD and PsyD colleagues.