Intermittent explosive disorder (IED) is a mental health condition that causes people to have sudden outbursts of anger.

It’s more common in children than adults, and it can be terrifying for the people affected by it and their loved ones. The good news is that there are many things you can do to help your child manage their IED symptoms and keep themselves safe. This article looks at what IED is, what the symptoms are, and how it’s diagnosed and treated.

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What is intermittent explosive disorder (IED)?

Intermittent explosive disorder (IED) is a mental health condition in which people have recurring and impulsive outbursts of anger. The outbursts are disproportionate to the situation, and another mental health condition, such as depression or anxiety, does not cause them. People with IEDs may feel embarrassed and ashamed after their anger-related episodes. They may try to hide their behavior from others or make excuses for it. Getting help for IED is important so you can manage your symptoms and prevent further problems from arising.

What are the symptoms of IED?

Intermittent Explosive Disorder (IED) is characterized by repeated, uncontrollable outbursts of anger. These outbursts are “explosions” and can sometimes be quite extreme. In children and adolescents, IED is often associated with other mental health problems such as depression, anxiety disorder, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and conduct disorder.

The most common signs of IED include:

  • Frequent temper tantrums
  • Physical aggression toward others or property destruction
  • Destructive or aggressive behavior during arguments
  • Serious aggression toward siblings or peers at school or sports practices
  • Feeling out of control of the anger
  • Physical violence
  • Having the urge to break things

How IED is diagnosed

The first step in diagnosing IED is ruling out other possible causes for the behavior. This can be tricky since many children with IEDs also have ADHD or some learning disability. To rule out other possible causes, doctors will perform a physical and neurological examination and talk to your child’s teachers and other caregivers. They’ll ask you questions about your child’s behavior and look back at any medical records that might be available. They’ll also ask you about any family history of mental health issues or substance abuse problems that could cause similar symptoms. Suppose there are no clear indications of an IED diagnosis. In that case, a psychologist will perform a clinical interview with your child to determine whether they meet the diagnostic criteria for this condition.

How IED is treated

Treatment for IED includes medications and behavioral therapy. Medications can help treat symptoms of depression and anxiety that usually accompany IEDs. Behavioral therapy teaches children how to control their anger, so they do not become violent during outbursts. Behavioral therapy can also teach parents how to help their children learn how to control their anger and avoid situations that could cause outbursts from their child with IED. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) can help children recognize how to manage their anger and outbursts better.

Are other mental health disorders common with an IED diagnosis?

Intermittent explosive disorder is a mental health condition that can affect children, but it is not the only disorder that can be present in a child with IED. While some children may have only intermittent explosive disorder, others might also have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), oppositional defiant disorder (ODD), and depression.

Intermittent explosive disorder is characterized by repeated, impulsive outbursts of anger that result in violent or destructive behavior. These outbursts are disproportionate to the situation at hand. They are not reasonable responses to stressors and usually cause significant distress to anyone involved.

Consequences of having IED

In some cases, children who have IEDs may also have other behavioral disorders. This means they may be unable to control their behavior and act aggressively or destructively.

Children with IEDs are also more likely to have problems at school, including poor grades and social interaction difficulties. They may be more likely to get in trouble for disruptive behavior and be suspended or expelled from school.

If you or someone you know has an IED, it’s important to get treatment as soon as possible. Treatment can help manage symptoms like anger management, mood swings, and emotional instability so that you can lead a happier life.

The consequences of having an IED include the following:

  • Social isolation from peers and family members
  • Low self-esteem
  • Poor academic performance
  • Destroying things in their home
  • Throwing or breaking objects
  • Losing control over their actions during an outburst
  • Venting their anger in other ways, like yelling at people or slamming doors
  • Poor school performance due to poor concentration or frequent absences from school due to fights at school
  • Aggressive behavior that results in injury to others or self-harm
  • Poor social skills due to bullying and ostracism from peers
  • Increased risk of substance abuse or other mental health issues
  • Increased risk of suicide
  • Loss of relationships and friendships

Are there other disruptive behavior disorders?

In addition to intermittent explosive disorder, there are two other disruptive behavior disorders: oppositional defiant disorder and conduct disorder.

Oppositional defiant disorder is characterized by frequent, angry outbursts; defying rules and authority figures; blaming others for mistakes or misbehavior; and arguing with adults.

Conduct disorder is characterized by anti-social behavior, aggression toward others, destruction of property, deceitfulness or theft, serious violations of rules and laws, and a lack of remorse.

Oppositional defiant disorder (ODD)

ODD is a behavioral disorder characterized by defiant, hostile, and aggressive behavior. The symptoms of ODD include:

  • A pattern of angry/irritable mood
  • Arguing with adults
  • Deliberately annoying others
  • Deliberately doing things that annoy others
  • They’re easily frustrated or angered
  • They act impulsively
  • They argue with adults
  • They break rules

Many factors may contribute to the development of ODD in children. They include:

Psychological factors: severe behavior problems, emotional instability, and negative emotions like anger and hostility.

Environmental factors: poverty or unstable home life, the chaotic environment at home or school (such as bullying or teachers who don’t provide structure), lack of positive role models in the home or community (like parents who drink alcohol or use drugs).

Conduct Disorder (CD)

Conduct disorder is a mental illness that causes children to act out in ways that are harmful to themselves or others. The most common symptoms of conduct disorder include:

  • Aggressive behavior toward people and animals
  • Destruction of property
  • Deceitfulness or theft
  • Serious violations of rules at home, school, and in other important settings
  • Destruction of property, e.g., fire-setting
  • Lying or truancy
  • Running away from home
  • Staying out late at night
  • Verbal aggression toward others (e.g., name-calling)

Many kids with conduct disorders also have other mental health conditions, such as depression, anxiety disorders, ADHD, learning disabilities, and substance abuse problems.

The exact cause of conduct disorder isn’t known, but some factors may contribute to its development:

  • Genetics: Children who have a family member with the same condition are more likely to develop it themselves than those without such a connection.
  • Environment: Children who grow up in homes where there is physical or emotional abuse may be more likely to develop conduct disorder than those who don’t experience these kinds of situations at home.
  • Brain chemistry: Many researchers believe that something about how our brains work causes us to behave inappropriately when we’re young; however, this theory hasn’t been proven yet.