The exact cause of intermittent explosive disorder is unknown, but the disorder is probably caused by a number of environmental and biological factors.

  • Environment. Most people with this disorder grew up in families where explosive behavior and verbal and physical abuse were common. Being exposed to this type of violence at an early age makes it more likely these children will exhibit these same traits as they mature.
  • Genetics. There may be a genetic component, causing the disorder to be passed down from parents to children.
  • Brain chemistry. There may be differences in the way serotonin, an important chemical messenger in the brain, works in people with intermittent explosive disorder.

People with other mental illnesses — such as mood, anxiety or personality disorders — or certain medical conditions — such as Parkinson's disease or traumatic brain injury — may display aggressive behaviors. However, they would not be diagnosed as having intermittent explosive disorder because the cause is from another condition.

Sept. 18, 2012