What is Anger Disorder?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Anger disorder, more properly known as Intermittent Explosive Disorder (IED) is a psychological condition characterized by sporadic episodes of aggression, violence, and destructive behavior. People who suffer from this disorder are unable to control themselves, exploding with rage in a way which is often out of proportion to the event which triggered the anger. Like many psychological disorders, IED can be treated with help from a psychological professional, but first it needs to be identified as a problem and diagnosed.

A person suffering from an anger disorder may experience extreme irritability problems.
A person suffering from an anger disorder may experience extreme irritability problems.

Three key things distinguish IED from other types of mood disorders which involve anger, such as bipolar disorder. The first is the presence of major property damage or serious harm as a result of one or more explosive episodes. The second is the characteristic of responses which are out of proportion, and the third is a lack of another explanation for the behavior, such as the use of mood-altering medication or an existing mood disorder. People may also experience feelings of fatigue, confusion, or distress after their explosive episodes, often compounded by guilt over their actions.

Difficulty with controlling anger can lead to high blood pressure.
Difficulty with controlling anger can lead to high blood pressure.

People with IED could be said to be simply short-tempered, but the disorder goes beyond this point. Most people with irritability and short tempers do have some control over their actions, and explosions of rage which result in serious damage or harm are unusual, thanks to self-control. Someone with anger disorder is actually unstable, lacking the ability to make choices which could prevent explosive occurrences. A short tempered person might snap at an irritating coworker, for example, in an understandable if inappropriate emotional display, while someone with IED might break a keyboard after making a typographical error.

People with an anger disorder may turn to drinking or similar behaviors as a way to cope.
People with an anger disorder may turn to drinking or similar behaviors as a way to cope.

Often, this condition is tied in with mood disorders and antisocial personality disorders. It can be treated with the use of therapy to discuss the root causes of the anger and to address these causes, often with psychotherapeutic sessions which include discussions about how to interpret information and control anger. Medications may also be used to address chemical imbalances in the brain which could contribute to the anger disorder.

People who have an anger disorder may have sporadic episodes of violence.
People who have an anger disorder may have sporadic episodes of violence.

Treating anger disorder is very important, because people with IED could potentially harm themselves or others in a fit of rage. They can also be frightening to live or work with, making psychological treatment beneficial to those who interact with the patient. Many treatments are highly effective, although sometimes it takes a few sessions with different therapists to find a good treatment approach, and therapy for IED also usually benefits the psychological health of the patient by addressing underlying issues.

People who have an anger disorder often experience outbursts of rage.
People who have an anger disorder often experience outbursts of rage.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Weed helps me a little bit but I can't stay stoned all the time. If I feel I've been wronged, I lose it. I used to take Prozac and it knocked my anger back by about 75 percent. I still had a few outbursts. But the Prozac wasn't good for me and I had horrible withdrawal from it. It took about three months to get over it. Now I'm trying to get by with natural remedies. Vitamins, no drinking, etc.


I get angry very quickly then have thoughts about killing myself or punching walls and breaking objects. I'm trying to figure out what I have. I also have general anxiety.


I am so afraid to get really angry as I lose control and have even hallucinated while being in a black out. When I came out of it. I was beating the hell out of a good friend who threatened me. I hallucinated that I was in a video game and he was a bad guy in the game. This lasted a only a few seconds but scared the hell out of me and him.

I have always known that I have what the shrink called large feelings and I am so afraid of conflict that I feel sick. I know the warning signs which are the same as an anxiety attack: dry mouth, shaking, feelings of doom, and waning to hide. I do not go out into the public when I feel like this and have been like this since being a child (I am 60 years old now). I am on medication but sometimes it seems useless, so I just stay away from people until I feel better.


Is it normal for my sister to have this at the age of 10? It is an everyday occurrence.


@anon336927: Here's the ugly truth: You're 18. Before, it was labels. Now, it's numbers across your chest. When you were 12 and smacked someone, you were punished by being grounded or whatever. Now that you're 18, you're looking at jail time for assault. If it's assault in the first or second degree, it's a *felony.* You'd rather risk being a convicted felon? That's a label, and it's a heck of a lot worse than knowing what's going on inside your head.

With help, you might be able to get on some medication that helps you control your anger. Without help, you could end up in jail. At the very least, you will be unable to hold down a job and could end up homeless.

Yes, I am absolutely trying to scare you. If being so afraid of being "labeled" keeps you from getting the help you obviously need, and know you need, it will cost you everything, including your boyfriend. It also does a grave disservice to everyone who loves you. Think about it. Good luck.


I am eighteen, and finally happy with life -- except for this. I can be having the perfect day, but my boyfriend will say something that I don't take the right way and I will get up and start saying anything and everything I can to hurt him and break him down and make him beg for me to stop.

If he touches me, I'll shove him into walls or punch his chest and arms to get him to back away. Sometimes I know what I am doing, but I can't stop. Other times it's like I am a simple puppet doing another person's bidding. I love this guy so much and he's so close to dragging me to the hospital to get me checked because he's tired of feeling like he can't be around me.

I have been like this for years. I don't want help because I'm scared of the labels that will be put on me.


I had IED for all of my life and nothing helped. Then I started smoking weed. Now I can actually control myself in a situation where I get overly agitated. Props to hemp.


I get so angry at where I am in my life. Where I live is horrible its boring and tragic. I know for a fact I have this disorder. I get so mad when things don't go the way I planned, which is more than half the time. I feel like the odds are against me and no one cares. I can go from happy to the angriest person you've met.

Sometimes I think about this problem and scare myself because I feel like I'm just going to snap on someone and mess them up. Even when I'm mad at someone I know or one of their friends, while we argue, I imagine just punching them in the face so hard.

I've punched holes in the wall, and I can curse anyone up and down the block, and then back again, but don't confuse me with a angry maniac. I do have a heart. Everyone I know comes before I do. I've been raised to be selfless. I would even give my toys away as a child just to see how happy whoever I gave it to would be, even my favorite things.


I also suffer from this lack of control. If I accidentally injure myself, I will attack the inanimate object that I hurt myself on. The other night a glass of water spilled on my bed and I literally roared at the top of my lungs until I had no breath left to scream.

If someone pulls my hair even accidentally, I cannot prevent myself from attacking them. I am very scared of hurting someone before I am able to gain control. It usually only takes a few seconds, but a few seconds might as well be an eternity. So many terrible things can happen in the course of a few seconds. I wish I could find help.


I get thoughts of being aggressive to people I really love, my partner for example. I obviously haven't done anything to her in an aggressive manner, but I get thoughts of doing something aggressive. I get these thoughts with friends as well. I meet someone and really get on with them and develop a fantastic friendship, then I get an aggressive thought, but they then go away. It's really strange. I've not carried out any aggressive actions, but I'm concerned I will at some point.


This disorder is no joke. I was recently diagnosed with it at age 42. My first major rage flare up was when I was 21. So you can imagine that I have had a great deal of time with IED.

It is nearly destroying my life, family, employment etc. Now I know exactly what my disorder is, I am working overtime to get it under control with meds, cognitive reasoning skills and breathing techniques. Thank god I went to see a psychiatrist to get this diagnosed. If you have these symptoms, go get help now! Do not wait!


I don't know if I have or had this problem, but I also used to get angry. Here is one thing that happened: I was in the back yard when I was 8 or 9 and my brother, his friend, and I were wrestling when his friend choked me. I got angry, got on top of him and tried to choke him and said, “I don't care if you die.” I say I don't know because I was young and that could probably be the reason but I don't know. Last year I was 15 and it was at the end of the school year and my old friend Luke (I don't see him anymore) called me so many names. I can't remember them all but when he called me “gayvin” I just went off. I threw my bag at him then he stood up and choked me against the wall then threw me to the ground. So I still don't know. My name is Gavin.


I'm trying to figure out what kind of disorder my friend has because she gets mad easily and always blames me for things missing when she can't find them around the house. I have been friends with her for over 20 years but I'm losing my patience now. I no longer want to be around her and she also likes to verbally abuse me but I don't think she realizes that she is doing it.


My name is Hasher and I am 17 years old. I think I have this problem for 2 or 3 years. I used to get angry for little things and start breaking the things in front of me, and abuse anyone in front of me when I am angry. And I also have an irregular sleeping pattern. I also feel guilty after doing such things. Can anyone help me?


I can't control my anger. I always shout and say bad words all the time, even though I don't want to say it. I can't control it. I always hurt my girl or my parents with my words. I shout a lot and sometimes I hurt myself.


my cousin's sister once threw a charger on my mother which resulted into three stitches thereafter. The reason was that we went for a movie without informing her. I do not find it normal. She even started abusing at my mother. Is this anything related to anger disorder? somebody please help.


This is the diagnosis or reason for the criminal accusation of assaulting my mother given to the Lone Tree police department in 2006 by the mental health therapy center I had just begun attending at the time for stress and depression. My case manager at the clinic falsely reported to the police that I had gotten so angry during an argument with her that I twisted the frail arm of my seventy-something year old mother who had osteoporosis behind her back and pushed her to the floor, in spite of the fact that my mother never claimed that, there was no evidence that I had done so and if I had, she surely would have needed medical attention for a fractured, if not a broken arm! So the essential requirement in my case of evidential display of violence was missing!

The second and third characteristics described (and missing in this case) being that of outrageous and unreasonably or unprovoked reaction are also missing, because, if she was not injured as she would have been if I had done what I was alleged to have done, then it obviously means I didn’t do it, and the anger that I was expressing verbally to her was part of an argument we were having over an important and common domestic issue: money.

The perspectives of the arguments might have been a rationale on one side or the other, but the reason for the argument was a very substantial one. Thus, I was not engaged in a delusional rant! But again, this is how psychotherapists can generalize an emotion to the point of criminality. After all, it is legal to feel like killing somebody as long as you don’t do it.


Someone with an anger disorder is still responsible for their actions. I can't see any court lowering someone's sentence because of an anger disorder. This is a place for people to get help, not discuss court cases. People coming here are legitimately hurting and/or are in trouble and trying to find answers.

My advice to the person who is 50 and looking for help, there are some ways you can genuinely get help. One is to look for a therapist that lists anger management as one of the areas they treat. I think it's helpful for a man to seek a male therapist and a woman to seek a female therapist for this kind of issue.

Once you find a therapist, ask them for information on any anger management groups in your area. Your therapist may run a group, or there may be a free group (similar to AA) meeting in your city. Lastly, I think it would be wise to visit a doctor and get a physical. Explain your problem to him and that you are seeking psychological help, but you want to make sure there is nothing physically wrong with you. For example, check to see that your blood pressure isn't high. Make sure you don't have any blood sugar issues. Hypoglycemia can have a real impact on your emotions, so check that out.

I would do these things as quickly as you can and stay committed to working on this issue. Frankly, it should be job number one, and if you work at it, it will positively impact your entire life. I wish you well and hope you find peace.


I have experienced out of control rages all my life, including childhood. My rage episodes have been to the point of an attempted murder charge, 134 assault related arrests, expulsion from school due to fighting, etc..

I am almost 50 years old and was just now diagnosed with this disorder. I am asking anyone listening for any advice towards medical, psychological, homeopathic or whatever they have tried that might work to help me control this before I do something I can't take back and costs me the rest of my life.


@GigaGold - These disorders are often legitimate and can be traced directly to chemical imbalances and other biological factors which are scientifically proven. Although it is plausible that someone could blame a disorder for their actions when they had full control, it should be recognized that litigable episodes like these would likely not be assuaged by medication in such a case. Psychiatrists with the proper credentials would be able to recognize the difference between a legitimate disorder and a false claim.


Is it possible that someone who claims to have such a disorder could be merely trying to put the blame on a psychological problem when they actually have full control of their actions and bear full responsibility for the damage they cause? What is the legal procedure for someone who makes such a claim? Would it lower his/her sentence, and would such a fact provide an incentive to blame it as the primary cause of a crime?

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