Intermittent explosive disorder (sometimes abbreviated as IED) is a behavioral disorder characterized by explosive outbursts of anger and violence, often to the point of rage, that are disproportionate to the situation at hand (e.g., impulsive screaming triggered by relatively inconsequential events). Impulsive aggression is unpremeditated, and is defined by a disproportionate reaction to any provocation, real or perceived. Some individuals have reported affective changes prior to an outburst (e.g., tension, mood changes, energy changes, etc.).
The disorder is currently categorized in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) under the “Disruptive, Impulse-Control, and Conduct Disorders” category. The disorder itself is not easily characterized and often exhibits comorbidity with other mood disorders, particularly bipolar disorder. Individuals diagnosed with IED report their outbursts as being brief (lasting less than an hour), with a variety of bodily symptoms (sweating, stuttering, chest tightness, twitching, palpitations) reported by a third of one sample. Aggressive acts are frequently reported accompanied by a sensation of relief and in some cases pleasure, but often followed by later remorse.
The current DSM-5 criteria for Intermittent Explosive Disorder include:
- Recurrent outbursts that demonstrate an inability to control impulses, including either of the following:
- Verbal aggression (tantrums, verbal arguments or fights) or physical aggression that occurs twice in a week-long period for at least three months and does not lead to destruction of property or physical injury (Criterion A1)
- Three outbursts that involve injury or destruction within a year-long period (Criterion A2)
- Aggressive behavior is grossly disproportionate to the magnitude of the psychosocial stressors (Criterion B)
- The outbursts are not premeditated and serve no premeditated purpose (Criterion C)
- The outbursts cause distress or impairment of functioning, or lead to financial or legal consequences (Criterion D)
- The individual must be at least six years old (Criterion E)
- The recurrent outbursts cannot be explained by another mental disorder and are not the result of another medical disorder or substance use (Criterion F)
It is important to note that DSM-5 now includes two separate criteria for types of aggressive outbursts (A1 and A2) which have empirical support:
- Criterion A1: Episodes of verbal and/or non damaging, nondestructive, or non injurious physical assault that occur, on average, twice weekly for three months. These could include temper tantrums, tirades, verbal arguments/fights, or assault without damage. This criterion includes high frequency/low intensity outbursts.
- Criterion A2: More severe destructive/assaultive episodes which are more infrequent and occur, on average, three times within a twelve-month period. These could be destroying an object without regard to value, assaulting an animal or individual. This criterion includes high-intensity/low-frequency outbursts.
The past DSM-IV criteria for IED were similar to the current criteria, however verbal aggression was not considered as part of the diagnostic criteria. The DSM-IV diagnosis was characterized by the occurrence of discrete episodes of failure to resist aggressive impulses that result in violent assault or destruction of property. Additionally, the degree of aggressiveness expressed during an episode should be grossly disproportionate to provocation or precipitating psychosocial stressor, and, as previously stated, diagnosis is made when certain other mental disorders have been ruled out, e.g., a head injury, Alzheimer’s disease, etc., or due to substance abuse or medication. Diagnosis is made using a psychiatric interview to affective and behavioral symptoms to the criteria listed in the DSM-IV.
The DSM-IV-TR was very specific in its definition of Intermittent Explosive Disorder which was defined, essentially, by exclusion of other conditions. The diagnosis required:
- several episodes of impulsive behavior that result in serious damage to either persons or property, wherein
- the degree of the aggressiveness is grossly disproportionate to the circumstances or provocation, and
- the episodic violence cannot be better accounted for by another mental or physical medical condition.
Many psychiatric disorders and some substance use disorders are associated with increased aggression and are frequently comorbid with IED, often making differential diagnosis difficult. Individuals with IED are, on average, four times more likely to develop depressive or anxiety disorders, and three times more likely to develop substance use disorders. Bipolar disorder has been linked to increased agitation and aggressive behavior in some individuals, but for these individuals aggressiveness is limited to manic and/or depressive episodes, whereas individuals with IED experience aggressive behavior even during periods with a neutral or positive mood. In one clinical study, the two disorders co-occurred 60% of the time. Patients report manic-like symptoms occurring just before outbursts and continuing throughout. According to a study, the average onset age of IED was around five years earlier than the onset age of bipolar disorder, indicating a possible correlation between the two. Similarly, alcohol and other substance use disorders may exhibit increased aggressiveness, but unless this aggression is experienced outside of periods of acute intoxication and withdrawal, no diagnosis of IED is given. For chronic disorders, such as PTSD, it is important to assess whether the level of aggression met IED criteria prior to the development of another disorder. In antisocial personality disorder, interpersonal aggression is usually instrumental in nature (i.e., motivated by tangible rewards), whereas IED is more of an impulsive, unpremeditated reaction to situational stress.
Content retrieved from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intermittent_explosive_disorder.