What Is Intermittent Explosive Disorder?

What Is Intermittent Explosive Disorder?

Intermittent explosive disorder (IED) is a condition that can lead people to experience physical injury or grief. It involves episodes of impulsive aggression that lead to a loss of control and damage to another person’s body or possessions.

If left untreated, the National Institute of Mental Health (NIH) reports that people with IED will experience an average of 43 incidents of losing control and violence. This condition may also lead to drug abuse, especially if people want to control their symptoms. Seek professional help to address both IED and resulting drug abuse at the same time.

Who Struggles with Intermittent Explosive Disorder?

The National Institute of Mental Health reports that up to 7.3 percent of Americans are affected by IED at some point in their lives, and that most of these individuals are male. Symptoms of this condition typically appear during early teen years: males often experience the onset of the disorder around age 13, and females experience it around age 19.

The April 11 Harvard Mental Health Letter shares that IED may be connected to abnormal neurotransmitter activity in areas of the brain related to aggressive behavior. This disorder has a genetic risk factor, so people closely related to someone with IED should be aware of their increased likelihood of developing this disorder.

Intermittent Explosive Disorder and Co-Occurring Mental Health Concerns

Intermittent explosive disorder is not the same as angry outbursts or impulsive violence. Some people associate uncontrollable anger with bipolar disorder or antisocial personality disorder, but people may have IED and a mental health condition at the same time.

The NIH explains the disorder “might predispose toward depression, anxiety, alcohol and drug abuse disorders by increasing stressful life experiences, such as financial difficulties and divorce.” In other words, someone may struggle with IED and a mental health disorder at the same time.

Co-occurring IED and other mental health concerns means that, if people seek treatment, they are often treated for one mental health concern, while IED goes undiagnosed or untreated. The same Harvard Mental Health Letter shares that fewer than 20% of individuals with IED receive IED-specific treatment. Although drugs have limited effectiveness in treating the disorder, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy provides promising results that include higher quality of life, less anger and less depression.