Intermittent Explosive Disorder And Addiction

Medically Reviewed by Johnelle Smith, M.D on July 5, 2021

Co-occurring intermittent explosive disorder and substance abuse is common. Mood instability and negative emotions caused by the disorder may increase the likelihood of drug and alcohol abuse.

Co-Occurring Intermittent Explosive Disorder And Addiction

Intermittent explosive disorder (IED) is a mental disorder characterized by episodes of unwarranted anger.

People with the disorder experience repeated, sudden episodes of aggressive behavior and angry outbursts. Road rage, throwing and breaking objects, and meltdowns are signs of the disorder.

The occurrence of intermittent explosive disorder and substance abuse is common. Mood instability and negative emotions caused by the disorder may increase the likelihood of drug and alcohol abuse.

When intermittent explosive disorder and substance abuse occur together, an integrated treatment approach that treats the underlying causes and symptoms of both disorders is recommended.

Learn more about co-occurring impulse control disorders and addiction

What Is Intermittent Explosive Disorder?

Intermittent explosive disorder is a condition characterized by sudden episodes of violent behavior or angry outbursts that are out of proportion to a situation.

This disorder is characterized by behavioral outbursts that are out of proportion to situational events.

This condition causes significant personal distress and may negatively affect personal and professional relationships. Further, it can lead to legal and financial consequences.

People who have this condition often exhibit symptoms for years, unless receiving treatment. Symptoms of the disorder may decrease in severity with age.

Diagnosing Intermittent Explosive Disorder

A qualified mental health professional will evaluate a patient for intermittent explosive disorder and diagnose the condition based on several factors.

Symptoms of IED can include:

  • episodic aggression
  • anger and rage
  • irritability
  • tremors
  • increased energy
  • racing thoughts
  • verbal and behavioral outbursts
  • temper tantrums
  • arguments
  • physical fights
  • tiredness and stress-relief after episodes
  • remorse, regret, or embarrassment after episodes

Signs And Symptoms Of Intermittent Explosive Disorder

Individuals with intermittent explosive disorder may feel significant distress due to not being able to control their impulses and feel remorse after an episodic rage.

People diagnosed with this condition may begin to isolate themselves from social situations out of fear of losing control in public.

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The disorder may lead to job loss, school suspensions, accidents, financial and legal problems.

Unfortunately, symptoms of this condition continue without treatment.

How Common Is Co-Occurring Intermittent Explosive Disorder And Addiction?

Recent estimates suggest that intermittent explosive disorder can be found in 2.7 percent of the general population.

Between one and seven percent of individuals will develop intermittent explosive disorder during their lifetime.

People with the disorder are at increased risk of developing a substance use disorder. Further, patients will display extreme sensitivity to drugs and alcohol.

Alcohol and drug abuse may be caused by personal distress, a mood disorder, or an attempt to reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression.

Why Do People With Intermittent Explosive Disorder Turn To Substance Abuse?

Intermittent explosive disorder causes significant distress in a person’s personal and professional life.

The condition often leads to broken relationships, legal problems, and financial difficulties.

People with the condition may also have mental health problems and struggle to maintain long-term relationships.

Anxiety, depression, and mood instability may lead an individual to seek drugs and alcohol to self-treat symptoms of their disorder.

Unfortunately, drug and alcohol use often severely exacerbates symptoms and leads to further adverse side effects and negative consequences.

A person may use drugs and alcohol to:

  • reduce anxiety and depression
  • reduce tension and anger
  • numb negative emotions
  • reduce feelings of grief and remorse

Habitual drug and alcohol abuse often leads to poor outcomes, as individuals with this disorder have increased sensitivity to the effects of substance abuse.

When intermittent explosive disorder and addiction occur together, it increases the risks of:

  • episodic rage
  • confrontations with the law
  • physical altercations
  • adverse side effects from substance abuse

Diagnosing Co-Occurring Intermittent Explosive Disorder And Addiction

To be diagnosed with intermittent explosive disorder, a person must meet the criteria defined by the DSM-IV. Further, specific criteria must be met for an individual to be diagnosed with a substance use disorder.

If a person is receiving substance abuse treatment, it may be necessary to complete treatment before seeking a diagnosis for intermittent explosive disorder.

Diagnosing these disorders is evaluated by:

  • personal medical history
  • physical health exam
  • family medical history
  • psychological exam
  • other personal and psychological factors

Treating Co-Occurring Intermittent Explosive Disorder And Addiction

Treating co-occurring disorders often requires an integrated treatment approach during dual diagnosis treatment.

A combination of therapies and medication may be used and is often based on the symptoms of the patient.

Commonly, a combination of group and personal therapy sessions, cognitive behavioral therapy, and medication is used to treat both disorders.

Dual diagnosis treatment is highly effective at treating co-occurring disorders simultaneously. Treating the underlying causes and symptoms of both disorders is vital for recovery.

Dual diagnosis treatment may involve:

  • medically detox
  • cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
  • personal and group therapy
  • medication
  • anger management training

Get Dual Diagnosis Treatment For Intermittent Explosive Disorder And Addiction

People with intermittent explosive disorder and substance use disorder are at great risk of self-harm. Substance abuse worsens the impulse to harm and engage in reckless behaviors.

Untreated intermittent explosive disorder and addiction come with high risks for adverse side effects and severe consequences.

If you or a loved one is struggling with IED and addiction, seeking dual diagnosis treatment is a vital step towards recovery.

Dual diagnosis treatment is available at:

  • individual health practices
  • inpatient treatment centers
  • outpatient treatment centers
  • residential rehab centers

If you’d like to learn more about co-occurring disorders or need assistance locating dual diagnosis treatment for IED and addiction near you, please call our helpline today.

This page does not provide medical advice. See more

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Medically Reviewed by
Johnelle Smith, M.D on July 5, 2021
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