People with an impulse control disorder can’t resist the urge to do something harmful to themselves or others. A type of impulse control disorder, intermittent explosive disorder is characterized by episodes of explosive rage or aggression that result in serious assaults or destroyed property. Some familiar consequences of intermittent explosive disorder may be road rage, domestic violenceor workplace violence.

The problem behavior isn’t continuous. It occurs in episodes, or “attacks.” Even if the person with the disorder is provoked, his explosive behavior is an inappropriate overreaction to the situation. Usually, the person reacts within minutes or hours of being provoked and stops the behavior automatically. After the episode, the person might blame himself or feel remorse, regret or embarrassment. Between episodes, he may show no sign of impulsiveness or aggression.

Mental health professionals diagnose intermittent explosive disorder based on a pattern of behavior over time. They also must rule out other mental disorders or conditions and the effects of substances such as alcohol, cocaine or marijuana. However, people with this disorder often are substance abusers.

People with impulse control disorders such as intermittent explosive disorder often also have mood disorders such as depressionbipolar disorder or anxiety, including obsessive-compulsive disorder. There has been some controversy among experts about whether intermittent explosive disorder should be considered a separate disorder or a type of mood disorder.

Treatment for intermittent explosive disorder helps people gain control over their impulses and often includes counseling and psychotherapy with medication.