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DSM-IV Intermittent Explosive Disorder: A Report of 27 Cases [CME]

J Clin Psychiatry 1998;59(4):203-210

Background: The authors' objective was to provide data regarding the demographic, phenomenological, course of illness, associated psychiatric and medical comorbidity, family history, and psychiatric treatment response characteristics of rigorously diagnosed subjects who met DSM-IV criteria for intermittent explosive disorder.

Method: Twenty-seven subjects meeting DSM-IV criteria for a current or past history of intermittent explosive disorder were given structured diagnostic interviews. The subjects' medical histories, family histories of psychiatric disorders, and responses to psychiatric treatments were also assessed.

Results: Most subjects described their intermittent explosive disorder symptoms as very distressing and/or highly problematic. All 27 subjects described aggressive impulses prior to their aggressive acts. Of 24 subjects who were systematically queried, 21 (88%) experienced tension with the impulses; 18 (75%), relief with the aggressive acts; and 11 (48%), pleasure with the acts. Most subjects stated that their aggressive impulses and acts were also associated with affective symptoms, particularly changes in mood and energy level. Twenty-five (93%) subjects had lifetime DSM-IV diagnoses of mood disorders; 13 (48%), substance use disorders; 13 (48%), anxiety disorders; 6 (22%), eating disorders; and 12 (44%), an impulse-control disorder other than intermittent explosive disorder. Subjects also displayed high rates of comorbid migraine headaches. First-degree relatives displayed high rates of mood, substance use, and impulse-control disorders. Twelve (60%) of 20 subjects receiving monotherapy with an antidepressant or a mood stabilizer reported moderate or marked reduction of their aggressive impulses and/or episodes.

Conclusion: Intermittent explosive disorder appears to be a bona fide impulse-control disorder that may be related to mood disorder and may represent another form of affective spectrum disorder.