Causes & Effects of IED

No one experiences intermittent explosive disorder the same way as someone else. Understanding the signs, symptoms and side effects of intermittent explosive disorder is a key component toward starting the recovery journey.

Understanding IED

What is IED

Intermittent explosive disorder, also known as IED, is a mental health condition that is typically diagnosed in children and adolescents. Marked by seemingly uncontrolled outbursts of verbal or physical aggression towards people, animals, or property, this mental illness involves a cyclical pattern of hostility, acting out, and remorse after the aggressive episode is over. Those that struggle with this condition do not premeditate their actions and do not think about possible consequences that could occur as a result of acting out.

Outbursts typically last about thirty minutes and occur with minor or without provocation. The wrath others, animals, or property experience during these episodes is often grossly out of proportion to the precipitating trigger. For those that wish to avoid the potential life-changing consequences that can ensue, treatment is available to reduce symptoms and decrease the risks associated with IED. In seeking and receiving appropriate treatment, it is possible for a person to live a life free from the strife and distress that comes with having intermittent explosive disorder.


IED statistics

Research has found that intermittent explosive disorder affects nearly 3% of Americans, with males accounting for more of that percentage than females. A condition that affects 1 in every 12 adolescents, IED is one of the most common disorders found in young people. Lastly, research has shown that those who meet diagnostic criteria for intermittent explosive disorder also suffer from another mental health disorder at the same time.

Causes and Risk Factors

Causes and risk factors for IED

Experts believe the following causes and risk factors lead to the development of IED:

Genetic: Intermittent explosive disorder is believed to be hereditary for some people. Especially in those with a first-degree relative who suffers from this condition, research has concluded that some individuals have a genetic predisposition to the development of IED.

Physical: Neurobiological studies have found that the development of intermittent explosive disorder can be dependent on an individual’s brain chemistry. What these studies have concluded is that those with this disorder have abnormalities in the part of their brains that control impulses, motor activity, and responses to anger stimuli. These physical changes explain why people with IED think and act in the manner they do.

Environmental: Experts have long believed that the onset of IED can be due to certain environmental influences or changes. Children who are exposed to aggressive or violent behaviors by their parents or caregivers have an increased likelihood of developing intermittent explosive disorder. Additionally, individuals who experience trauma, abuse, or neglect early in life are also at risk of developing this mental health condition.

Risk factors:

  • Being male
  • Family history of mental illness or substance abuse
  • Personal history of trauma
  • Having brain trauma
  • Exposure to violence
  • Possessing certain medical conditions

Signs and Symptoms

IED symptoms and signs

When an individual verbally or physically acts out two times per week over the course of three months and causes damage to property  or another person without forethought or consideration for consequences, he or she may be suffering from IED. Some additional symptoms, which can vary depending on the person, that indicate that a person is suffering from intermittent explosive disorder are:

Behavioral symptoms:

  • Road rage
  • Unwarranted fits of anger
  • Destruction of property
  • Verbal aggression
  • Instigative or volatile behavior towards others
  • Self-harm

Physical symptoms:

  • Muscle tension
  • Tightening in one’s chest
  • Headaches
  • Tremors
  • Tingling or numbness
  • Increased heart rate
  • Hearing echoes

Cognitive symptoms:

  • Racing thoughts
  • Feeling as if one is going to lose control

Psychosocial symptoms:

  • Guilt
  • Shame
  • Rage
  • Irritability
  • Agitation
  • Inability to tolerate frustration
  • Emotional detachment


Effects of IED

Without treatment, intermittent explosive disorder can cause a person to experience a number of negative effects. Resulting in consequences that can severely impact a person’s life, the following effects are known to occur:

  • Academic failure
  • Inability to retain or maintain employment
  • Disciplinary action at school
  • Inability to perform at work
  • Financial problems
  • Interaction with law enforcement
  • Demise of interpersonal relationships or divorce
  • Isolation from friends and loved ones
  • Self-harm
  • Thoughts or attempts at suicide

Co-Occurring Disorders

 IED and co-occurring disorders

Certain mental health conditions are known to occur in conjunction with intermittent explosive disorder. Because some symptoms overlap or because one can lead to the development of another, the following mental disorders are often diagnosed in someone with IED:

  • Oppositional defiant disorder
  • Conduct disorder
  • Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder
  • Depressive disorders
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Borderline personality disorder
  • Antisocial personality disorder
  • Substance use disorders
what past clients say

Because of the care my sister received at StoneCrest, there is peace in my family again. Thank you!

– Sister of a former client
Marks of Quality Care
  • Mental Health America Bell Seal for Workplace Mental Health 2023 - Gold Recipient
  • MPRO Governor's Award of Excellence 2017-2019
  • National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)
  • The Joint Commission (JCAHO) Gold Seal of Approval