IED: What Is It? Do You Have It?

When you hear the acronym IED most people may think of an improvised explosive device.  For more than 16 million people in the United States IED means intermittent explosive disorder.  This is a chronic disorder that leads to repeated, sudden episodes of impulsive, aggressive, or violent behavior.  It can cause angry verbal outbursts or overexaggerated reactions to situations. IED was once deemed to be very rare, but any more it is becoming one of the most common anger disorders.

Intermittent explosive disorder can lead to road rage, domestic abuse, and property destruction.  It can lead negatively to relationships, work, school, substance abuse, and self harm. Sometimes if things get too out of hand it can lead to legal and financial consequences.  Outbursts usually happen suddenly. You may never know what will trigger an episode. Outbursts usually only last less than thirty minutes. Before an outburst you can feel irritable, aggressive, or chronically angry.  Though the condition is chronic episodes can be separated by weeks or months.  


Risk Factors


Anyone can develop IED.  It can occur in children after the age of six.  Though it is most common in young adults. The cause of IED is unknown.  There are some things that can be linked to causing the development of IED.  One being your environment. If you are living around someone with explosive behavior it can cause you to develop the same behavior.  Another thing that can lead to intermittent explosive disorder can be genetics. There are now studies looking at the brain of someone with IED and comparing it to someone who doesn’t have the disorder.  There may be differences in structure, function, and chemistry of a person’s brain with IED than someone without it.  

Children who have been abused have a higher risk of developing IED.  Also people with antisocial personality disorder, borderline personality disorder, or ADHD have an increased risk as well.  




Symptoms that can occur during an outburst can include temper tantrums, tirades, heated arguments, shouting, slapping, shoving, pushing, physical fights, property damage, threatening or assaulting people or animals. After you have an episode you may be relieved, or a release of energy leaving you feeling drained.  Then after you realize what’s happened you may feel remorse or embarrassment. Some symptoms that can happen after an outburst can be rage, irritability, increased energy, racing thoughts, tingling, tremors, heart palpitations, and chest tightness. If you experience these feelings you will want to discuss them with your doctor so that they can help you manage these symptoms. 




Your doctor will diagnose you by doing a physical exam, asking you questions, and then may refer you to a therapist who will be able to help you even more.  It is hard to manage this disorder on your own. You will really need to work at things to help control the amount of outbursts you have. The main thing is to seek help.  Get yourself a therapist who you can talk to and who can give you good coping mechanisms for controlling your anger. A therapist will also be able to prescribe you medication if needed.  Medications can be antidepressants, or mood stabilizers that will help you be able to control your emotions more easily instead of just becoming a rage monster when a situation doesn’t warrant it.  Another thing you will want to work on is relaxation techniques. Whether this is deep breathing, yoga, or meditation they can be helpful in calming yourself down when you start feeling yourself becoming agitated.  Something else you can try is problem solving techniques, this can help you think of other solutions to get through a situation instead of having an outburst. Another technique that could be super helpful is learning when you need to remove yourself from the situation.  If something in your environment is making you become super angry and you can feel an outburst coming on, step out of the room, go for a walk, or go for a drive. Taking yourself out of the situation to calm down may be extremely helpful. Improving your communication also may be helpful.  This can help instead of yelling and blowing up if you learn how to express your dislike or emotions in a calm way it will subside the want to explode with rage. Stay away from substances such as illegal drugs and alcohol. These substances can actually increase aggressiveness and cause you to lose control easier.  Mood altering drugs in a bad way are not helpful.  



Intermittent explosive disorder is a chronic condition that can be very harmful to the person who has it and harmful to the people around them.  It can destroy relationships, or careers if not handled appropriately. If you have these explosive tendencies or know someone who does you will want to seek help.  It cannot be managed alone, you need trusted friends to support you and someone licensed to help you learn ways to cope with your anger. The goal with IED is to learn how to control the anger build up so that outbursts or episodes become less frequent with lots of time in between episodes.  Unlearning the behavior that coincides with IED can be difficult, give yourself time to learn coping mechanisms and what is best for you individually.  

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