Intermittent Explosive Disorder

By American Psychiatric Association

The essential feature of Intermittent Explosive Disorder (312.34) is the occurrence of discrete episodes of failure to resist aggressive impulses that result in serious assaultive acts or destruction of property (Criterion A). The degree of aggressiveness expressed during an episode is grossly out of proportion to any provocation or precipitating psychosocial stressor (Criterion B). A diagnosis of Intermittent Explosive Disorder is made only after other mental disorders that might account for episodes of aggressive behavior have been ruled out (e.g., Antisocial Personality Disorder, Borderline Personality Disorder, a Psychotic Disorder, a Manic Episode, Conduct Disorder, or Attention Deficit/ Hyperactivity Disorder) (Criterion C). The aggressive episodes are not due to the direct physiological effects of a substance (e.g., a drug of abuse, a medication) or a general medical condition (e.g., head trauma, Alzheimer’s disease) (Criterion C). The individual may describe the aggressive episodes as “spells” or “attacks” in which the explosive behavior is preceded by a sense of tension or arousal and is followed immediately by a sense of relief. Later the individual may feel upset, remorseful, regretful, or embarrassed about the aggressive behavior.

Differential Diagnosis

Aggressive behavior can occur in the context of many other mental disorders. A diagnosis of Intermittent Explosive Disorder should be considered only after all other disorders that are associated with aggressive impulses or behavior have been ruled out. If the aggressive behavior occurs exclusively during the course of a delirium, a diagnosis of Intermittent Explosive Disorder is not given. Similarly, when the behavior develops as part of a dementia, a diagnosis of Intermittent Explosive Disorder is not made and the appropriate diagnosis is dementia with the
specifier With Behavioral Disturbance. Intermittent Explosive Disorder should be distinguished from Personality Change Due to a General Medical Condition, Aggressive Type, which is diagnosed when the pattern of aggressive episodes is judged to be due to the direct physiological effects of a diagnosable general medical condition (e.g., an individual who has suffered brain injury from an automobile accident and subsequently manifests a change in personality characterized by aggressive outbursts). A careful history and a thorough neurological evaluation are helpful in
making the determination. Note that nonspecific abnormalities on neurological examination (e.g., “soft signs”) and nonspecific EEG changes are compatible with a diagnosis of Intermittent Explosive Disorder and only preempt the diagnosis if they are indicative of a diagnosable general
medical condition.

Aggressive outbursts may also occur in association with Substance Intoxication or Substance Withdrawal, particularly associated with alcohol, phencyclidine, cocaine and other stimulants, barbiturates, and inhalants. The clinician should inquire carefully about the nature and extent of substance use, and a blood or urine drug screen may be informative.

Intermittent Explosive Disorder should be distinguished from the aggressive or erratic behavior that can occur in Oppositional Defiant Disorder, Conduct Disorder, Antisocial Personality Disorder, Borderline Personality Disorder, a Manic Episode, and Schizophrenia. If the aggressive behavior is better accounted for as a diagnostic or associated feature of another mental disorder, a separate diagnosis of Intermittent Explosive Disorder is not given. Aggressive behavior may, of course, occur when no mental disorder is present. Purposeful behavior is distinguished from Intermittent Explosive Disorder by the presence of motivation and gain in the aggressive act. In forensic settings, individuals may malinger Intermittent Explosive Disorder to avoid responsibility for their behavior.

Diagnostic Criteria

A. Several discrete episodes of failure to resist aggressive impulses that result in serious assaultive acts or destruction of property.

B. The degree of aggressiveness expressed during the episodes is grossly out of proportion to any precipitating psychosocial stressors.

C. The aggressive episodes are not better accounted for by another mental disorder (e.g., Antisocial Personality Disorder, Borderline Personality Disorder, a Psychotic Disorder, a Manic Episode, Conduct Disorder, or Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder) and are not due
to the direct physiological effects of a substance (e.g., a drug of abuse, a medication) or a general medical condition (e.g., head trauma, Alzheimer’s disease).

 

APA Reference
Association, A. (2006). Intermittent Explosive Disorder. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 30, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/lib/intermittent-explosive-disorder/000628
Scientifically Reviewed
    Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 30 Jan 2013
    Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.

 

 

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