IED Signs, Symptoms & Effects In Children

Understanding the signs, symptoms, and effects of IED is an important part of the effort to get treatment for a child or adolescent. At Little Creek Behavioral Health in Conway, Arkansas, we’re proud to be a source of information and comprehensive care for young people ages 12-18 who have been struggling with IED and other mental health conditions.

Understanding IED

Learn about IED

Intermittent explosive disorder (IED) is a mental health disorder that cause outbursts and an inability to control impulses of physical and verbal aggression. Intermittent explosive disorder usually begins during childhood or adolescence, but this condition often lasts over the course of an individual’s life. 

The outbursts associated with intermittent explosive disorder are not associated with any prior thought or planning. Some outbursts may result in injury to oneself or others, while others may not cause any bodily harm. These explosive behaviors can be severe and easily identifiable due to the level of physical and verbal aggression a child with this condition displays. 

These behavioral outbursts may occur several times over the course of one year or as often as multiple times per week. Each episode often lasts less than thirty minutes but can cause extensive damage or injury. 

The short duration and irregularity of these outbursts differentiates IED from other mental health conditions that may cause consistent behaviors such as aggression and irritability. Children who have been impacted by this mental health disorder may be more likely to use drugs and alcohol to cope with the unpredictability of their symptoms. 

Although these short outbursts of aggression occur periodically, they can potentially cause significant distress to a child and those involved in the child’s life. This makes it important to be informed about your child’s health in order to know when it would be beneficial to seek care. 


Statistics about IED

In the United States, the number of children who are impacted by intermittent explosive disorder is growing. The American Journal of Psychiatry states that: 

  • Intermittent explosive disorder occurs in about 6.9% of the population. 
  • A diagnosis of intermittent explosive disorder is more common in children and adolescents than in adults. 
  • Intermittent explosive disorder is more frequently diagnosed in males than in females. 
  • Anxiety disorders and depression are four times as likely to develop in children who are living with intermittent explosive disorder. 
  • Addiction is three times more common in children who are struggling with intermittent explosive disorder. 

Causes & Risk Factors

Causes and risk factors for IED

There are certain factors that place a child at risk for developing IEDWhile risk factors do not guarantee that a child will develop this mental health condition, the following factors have been linked to its onset: 

  • A history of trauma in early childhood 
  • Having direct relatives who have intermittent explosive disorder 
  • Genetic changes in the areas of the brain that control anger and mood 

Signs & Symptoms

Symptoms of IED

Children struggling with intermittent explosive disorder may demonstrate the following physical, mental, and behavioral symptoms during outbursts: 

Behavioral symptoms: 

  • Damaging property 
  • Causing bodily harm to oneself, other people, or animals 
  • Arguing with others 
  • Inability to manage behaviors 

Mental symptoms: 

  • The absence of a motive or plan before displaying aggressive behaviors 
  • Significant emotional distress 
  • Racing thoughts 

Physical symptoms: 

  • Hand tremors 
  • Heart palpitations 
  • Chest pain 

Children under age six should not be diagnosed with intermittent explosive disorder, as the typical course of child development may make it difficult to identify symptoms of a mental health condition. Children who experience severe outbursts of aggression should be evaluated by a mental health professional to ensure these symptoms cannot be attributed to substance use, other mental health conditions, or a medical condition. 


Effects of IED

Children who are suffering from intermittent explosive disorder are often negatively impacted by the unpredictability and emotional distress associated with this condition. If your child receives mental healthcare, they are more likely to lead a productive life. If left untreated, intermittent explosive disorder may impact the following areas of your child’s life: 

  • Continual feelings of regret and fear about the consequences of their outbursts 
  • Civil or criminal charges 
  • Impaired ability to form or maintain relationships 
  • Difficulty communicating with others 
  • Poor attendance or performance at work or school 

Co-Occurring Disorders

Common co-occurring disorders among children and adolescents who have IED

Children or adolescents who have intermittent explosive disorder may have other mental health conditions, including: 

  • Conduct disorder 
  • Oppositional defiant disorder 
  • Autism spectrum disorder 
  • Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) 
  • Substance use disorder 
  • Depression 
  • Anxiety disorder 
  • Borderline personality disorder 
  • Antisocial personality disorder 

If left untreated, each of these conditions has the potential to negatively impact a young person’s life. This makes it important to seek the appropriate care for your child. Little Creek Behavioral Health provides the person-centered care your child needs to manage the symptoms of intermittent explosive disorder and other mental health concerns. Consult a mental health professional if you have specific concerns about your child’s behaviors or are interested in learning more about getting treatment for intermittent explosive disorder. 

Marks of Quality Care
  • The Joint Commission (JCAHO) Gold Seal of Approval