Intermittent explosive disorder
Intermittent explosive disorder
Intermittent explosive disorder involves repeated episodes of impulsive, aggressive, violent behavior or angry verbal outbursts in which you react grossly out of proportion to the situation. Road rage, domestic abuse, throwing or breaking objects, or other temper tantrums may be signs of intermittent explosive disorder.
People with intermittent explosive disorder may attack others and their possessions, causing bodily injury and property damage. They may also injure themselves during an outburst. Later, people with intermittent explosive disorder may feel remorse, regret or embarrassment.
If you have intermittent explosive disorder, treatment may involve medications and psychotherapy to help you control your aggressive impulses.
Explosive eruptions, usually lasting less than 30 minutes, often result in verbal assaults, injuries and the deliberate destruction of property. These episodes may occur in clusters or be separated by weeks or months of nonaggression. In between explosive outbursts, the person may be irritable, impulsive, aggressive or angry.
Aggressive episodes may be preceded or accompanied by:
Depression, fatigue or relief may occur after the episode.
The exact cause of intermittent explosive disorder is unknown, but the disorder is probably caused by a number of environmental and biological factors.
People with other mental illnesses — such as mood, anxiety or personality disorders — or certain medical conditions — such as Parkinson's disease or traumatic brain injury — may display aggressive behaviors. However, they would not be diagnosed as having intermittent explosive disorder because the cause is from another condition.
A number of factors increase your risk of developing intermittent explosive disorder:
People with intermittent explosive disorder have an increased risk of:
Preparing for your appointment
If you're concerned because you're having repeated emotional outbursts, talk with your primary care doctor or make an appointment with someone who specializes in treating emotional disorders, such as a psychiatrist, psychologist or social worker.
What you can do
Prepare a list of questions to make sure you cover everything that's important to you. For intermittent explosive disorder, some basic questions to ask your doctor include:
Don't hesitate to ask questions anytime that you don't understand something.
What to expect from your doctor
Tests and diagnosis
To determine a diagnosis of intermittent explosive disorder and eliminate other conditions that may be causing your symptoms, expect your doctor to do a:
To be diagnosed with intermittent explosive disorder, your doctor will ask about your behavior to see if you meet the criteria in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), published by the American Psychiatric Association. This manual is used by mental health providers to diagnose mental conditions and by insurance companies to reimburse for treatment.
DSM criteria include:
Other conditions that must be ruled out before making a diagnosis of intermittent explosive disorder include other mental disorders or substance use problems.
Treatments and drugs
There's no one treatment that's best for everyone with intermittent explosive disorder. Treatment generally includes psychotherapy and medication.
Coping and support
Controlling your anger
If your loved one won't get help
Create an escape plan to stay safe from domestic violence
Get help to protect yourself from domestic violence
If you have intermittent explosive disorder, prevention is likely beyond your control unless you get treatment from a professional. Combined with, or as part of, treatment, these suggestions may help you prevent some incidents from getting out of control:
Last Updated: 2012-09-18
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