Like most medical disorders, intermittent explosive disorder probably is caused by several factors. While scientists do not know the exact causes of the disorder, it is clear that physical and emotional factors play roles in its development.
Biological or physical causes
Theories about biological or physical causes of intermittent explosive disorder implicate:
- dysfunctional neurotransmitters, or brain chemicals, such as serotonin
- hormones such as testosterone
- regions of the brain linked to emotions and memory, such as the limbic system, or to planning and controlling impulses, such as the frontal lobes
People might either inherit or develop these physical/biological vulnerabilities, which are sometimes associated with mild neurological abnormalities. Predisposing factors in childhood include exposure to drugs or alcohol, head trauma, seizures and brain infections or inflammations.
Emotional or psychological causes
Studies have shown that people with impulse control disorders such as intermittent explosive disorder are more likely to have a family history of addiction and mood disorders.
Research also has shown that people with intermittent explosive disorder often grow up in unstable families marked by severe frustration, physical and emotional abuse, alcoholism, violence and life-threatening situations. They often lack role models to teach them how to control their impulses and emotions.
People might become explosive as a way of compensating for underlying feelings of insecurity and low self-esteem, which are common among people with the disorder. They also might become explosive when confronted with situations that remind them-consciously or unconsciously-of frustrating or dangerous experiences from their childhood. But regardless of the causes, explosive episodes are more likely to occur during periods of stress.
Ploskin, D. (2007). What Causes Intermittent Explosive Disorder?. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 22, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/lib/what-causes-intermittent-explosive-disorder/0001156
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 30 Jan 2013
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.