Trying to figure out what your child is reacting to can be difficult, especially when their emotions are going above and beyond what you may have expected. Children are notorious for having tantrums and get upset over trivial things but how do you know when the tantrum may be something more?
Intermittent Explosive Disorder (IED) is characterized by impulsive reactions of rage that are incongruent to a situation and involve physical or verbal aggression. It can manifest in children as young as the age of 6 years old. This aggression can be physical or verbal and is grossly out of proportion to the stressor at hand. These outbursts are not premeditated and do not have a tangible objective. (APA 2013) Sometimes when a child is having a hard time coping with anger it can manifest itself into a rage that is hard to stop without guidance.
An Example:
A child gets up to throw away garbage, but they have missed the trash can several times. Since they are failing, they act and throw the trash can across the room. Versus another child that may throw the garbage in the trash can forcefully.
If a child diagnosed with IED is becoming frustrated with an easy task, they will have a much more severe reaction than a child who was not diagnosed with IED.

Symptoms of Intermittent Explosive Disorder

  1. Rapid Onset
  2. Lasts less than 30 minutes
  3. Happens in response to minor provocation
  4. Failure to control the impulsive aggressive behavior
  5. Impulsive and anger based
  6. Verbal/Physical aggression happening two times a week on average for a period of 3 months causing no damage or destruction
  7. Three Behavioral outbursts involving damage or destruction within a 12-month period


The Consequences of IED

  1. Social
  2. Occupational
  3. Financial
  4. Legal

(APA, 2013)
For children with IED the consequences they will most likely face are social consequences. Children are at school for at least 8 hours a day, and this is where they learn how to interact with others and create relationships. It can be difficult to for children with IED to reach out to others and make new friends. If there is a child who is acting out, they could be labeled as a bad kid. This can make it even harder for them to make friends. Other children may not want to interact with a child who has aggressive tendencies because they are afraid of that child or think they might get hurt.
When dealing with children their occupation can be considered school. School-age children who exhibit violence in the school setting can contribute to difficulty learning, for themselves and their peers, and higher levels of stress among staff and students (Cardiello). Teachers may fear when this child will have an episode and how they should handle it. Other children in the class could be worried about being hurt or are scared because the child will not be able to control their actions. There are also school safety risks. Schools may have to take disciplinary action to make sure to keep a safe environment for all that attend.
Helpful Resources:

  1. School counselors or psychologists
  2. School-wide positive behavioral intervention
  3. Support programs
  4. Individual behavior plans
  5. Cognitive-behavioral therapy
  6. Psychotropic management
  7. Child-centered play therapy
  8. Relaxation techniques
  9. Emotional regulation

If you or someone you know is looking for help with intermittent explosive order, please contact us.

Cardiello, J. (2015, May). Intermittent explosive disorder. Communique, 43(7), 8+. Retrieved from
American Psychiatric Association. [APA] (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Washington, DC: Author.

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