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Intermittent Explosive Disorder

What is Intermittent Explosive Disorder?

Intermittent explosive disorder (IED) involves sudden, impulsive acts of aggression or violent behavior. These episodes may take the form of spells or attacks, with symptoms beginning minutes, or hours, before the actual act. A person with IED may have frequent episodes, or weeks or months may go by without any episodes.


Research suggests that intermittent explosive disorder (IED) can be linked to something in our surroundings or something going on in our body. Some people may be more likely to show explosive behavior because of an abnormality in the area of the brain that controls behavior. Others may develop IED as a result of harsh punishments from their parents or observing others around them (parents, siblings, etc.) acting out in explosively violent ways.


People with IED have violent behaviors that are impulsive and often are out of proportion with the situation. They may feel the following either before or during the episode:

  • Rage
  • Racing heart
  • Irritability
  • Sudden burst of energy

After an outburst, someone with IED will feel a sense of relief from built-up tension. While many with IED blame others for causing their violent outbursts, they also express remorse and guilt.


Research has found that therapy using cognitive approaches that challenge the patients’ negative view of the world and other people were effective in reducing the intensity and frequency of violent episodes.

Some medications, including some antidepressants, are also effective in treating IED.

Last Updated 02/2021

Reviewed By Vern Duett, Mental Health Specialist II

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