Treatments for intermittent explosive disorder-like those for most medical conditions-focus on controlling the problem and improving a person’s quality of life. The best treatment often is a combination of medication and psychosocial support, including counseling or psychotherapy.

Counseling or therapy

Counseling or psychotherapy helps people understand and control their thoughts and behaviors. Psychodynamic psychotherapy usually involves some focus on underlying feelings and motivations, including conscious and unconscious thought processes. The therapeutic work may uncover underlying feelings and reasons behind anger or rage and help people develop a better way to think about and control their behavior.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy focuses on conscious thought patterns and overt behaviors, helping the person to recognize the onset of the urge or impulse to explode, to identify the triggers or circumstances associated with the onset and to develop ways to prevent the explosive behaviors from occurring.

Sometimes group psychotherapy or marital or family counseling can help. Attending a 12-step program such as Alcoholics Anonymous can play an important role in treatment for a person who has a problem with alcohol.


Medications for intermittent explosive disorder might include antidepressants such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), mood stabilizers such as lithium carbonate (Lithonate) or some anticonvulsant medications. These medications might help even if a person does not have the symptoms they are normally prescribed for.

“Major” tranquilizers such as clozapine (Clozaril), haloperidol (Haldol) or others used for psychotic symptoms or conditions also may help. “Minor” tranquilizers such as sedatives or sleeping pills, however, may help or may even make the condition worse. For example, diazepam (Valium) can act like alcohol and lower a person’s inhibitions and self-control, leading to more explosive outbursts.

“Beta blockers,” which doctors prescribe to slow heart rate or control blood pressure, also might help control explosive rage. Other unproven treatments also have included decreasing testosterone levels in men or even neurosurgery.