Intermittent explosive disorder (IED) is a psychiatric disorder that causes recurrent, sudden episodes of violent or aggressive behavior. The behavior is described as acting out of proportion.
While the cause of IED isn’t completely understood, it’s likely related to factors like genetics and structural brain differences. Many individuals with IED also grew up in an aggressive familial environment.
Since little is known about the condition, an intermittent explosive disorder test does not exist. But a mental health professional can diagnose IED based on physical and psychological evaluations.
In this article, we’ll explore what a mental health professional will look for, along with the criteria for an official IED diagnosis.
There isn’t a test for intermittent explosive disorder (IED), which is a fairly new diagnosis. It was only first presented as a psychiatric disorder in the third edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) in 1980.
But there is a screening tool for the condition.
This tool, called the IED screening questionnaire (IED-SQ), can assess your risk of developing IED. It may also help detect symptoms and determine if additional evaluation is necessary.
However, the IED-SQ doesn’t provide an official diagnosis. It only determines the likelihood that your symptoms are due to IED.
IED diagnosis is done by a mental health professional. They’ll use numerous methods to make a diagnosis.
This will likely include:
- Medical history. To understand your physical and psychiatric history, a doctor will request information about your health history.
- Physical examination. A general practitioner will look for possible physical causes of your symptoms. Your physical exam might include blood tests.
- Psychological evaluation. You’ll discuss your behavior, emotions, and thoughts. This lets the mental health professional rule out other psychiatric conditions.
Your mental health professional will then compare your symptoms to the criteria in the most recent edition of the DSM (DSM-5). You’ll be diagnosed with IED if you experience one of the following:
- verbal or physical aggression toward things, animals, or other people, twice a week (on average), within 3 months, which doesn’t cause physical damage or injury
- three aggressive outbursts that cause damage or injury, within 12 months
According to the DSM-5, diagnosis of IED must also involve outbursts that:
- are out of proportion to the situation
- are not explained by another psychiatric disorder, like borderline personality disorder (BPD)
- are not related to a medical condition or substance abuse
- are impulsive and not related to another purpose, like obtaining money
- cause distress or disrupt your ability to work or maintain relationships
IED causes a wide range of symptoms. Before or during an IED episode, you may have:
- racing thoughts
- increased energy levels
- heart palpitations
- chest tightness
Your actions during an outburst are impulsive. This means the potential consequences don’t cross your mind. These actions may involve:
- arguing without a reason
- throwing items
- starting fights
- threatening people
- pushing or slapping people
- damaging property or things
- harming people or animals
- road rage
- domestic violence
In adults, the episodes are often described as “adult temper tantrums.” Each episode usually lasts for less than 30 minutes.
After the episode, you might feel extremely tired or relieved. You may feel regretful, guilty, or ashamed later on.
If you have IED, you’re more likely to experience other complications, including:
- physical health problems, like high blood pressure and ulcers
- mood disorders, including depression and anxiety
- poor interpersonal relationships
- drug or alcohol abuse
- job loss
- trouble staying in school
- car collisions (from road rage)
- financial or legal problems
Call 911 immediately if you think you might hurt yourself or another person.
If you’re constantly getting angry for no reason, see a doctor. You should also seek help if your outbursts make it difficult to keep a job or maintain stable relationships.
A doctor can recommend a mental health professional to evaluate your symptoms.
If you recognize IED symptoms in another adult, ask them (kindly) to see a professional. A therapist or counselor can provide you with tips for talking to your loved one.
If you think your teen or child has IED, bring them to a mental health professional. A doctor may recommend family therapy as part of the treatment process.
Though there isn’t an intermittent explosive disorder test, a mental health professional could use a questionnaire to screen your risk.
They can diagnose IED based on your:
- medical history
- physical exam
- psychological evaluation
See a doctor if you think you have IED. If you notice IED symptoms in your child or teen, bring them to a mental health professional.
With cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and medication, it’s possible to manage IED.