Intermittent Explosive Disorder: Linked to Inflammation

intermittent explosive disorderIntermittent explosive disorder (IED) is a mental condition that is characterized by impulsivity, hostility, and recurrent aggressive outbursts, often largely out of proportion to the situation.[1] Oftentimes, individuals with IED attack others and their possessions, causing bodily injury and property damage.1 Later on, they may feel remorse, regret, or embarrassment; however, it often is a continuous pattern.1

According to new research, individuals with IED have higher levels of two inflammation markers in their blood, creating a direct link to recurrent and problematic aggression in individuals diagnosed with IED.1 These markers have not been found in those with good mental health or with other mental health disorders.1

According to the Chairman of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neuroscience at the University of Chicago, senior study author Emil Coccaro, M.D., “These two markers consistently correlate with aggression and impulsivity but not with other psychiatric problems. We don’t know yet if the inflammation triggers aggression or aggressive feeling set off inflammation, but it’s a powerful indication that the two are biologically connected, and a damaging combination.”1

Individuals who suffer from IED often overreact to stressful situations with uncontrollable anger and rage, which are out of proportion to the situation triggering the stress.1 At first, these outbursts can be written off as simple bad behavior, but it is often beyond that.1

Coccaro said, “It has strong genetic and biomedical underpinnings. It is a serious mental health condition that can and should be treated.”1

This disorder can also predispose people to other mental illnesses, including depression, anxiety, and alcohol or drug-abuse.1 Individuals with IED can also have an increased risk of coronary heart disease, hypertension, stroke, diabetes, arthritis, ulcers, headaches, and chronic pain.1

For the study, Coccaro and colleagues focused on the blood levels of two markers of inflammation—C-reactive protein (CRP) and interleukin-6 (IL-6).1 Both of which are associated with impulsive aggressive behaviors in humans, cats, and mice.1 CRP is produced by the liver in response to an infection or injury, and it helps to focus the immune system’s attention on dead or damaged cells.1 IL-6 is secreted by while blood cells to stimulate immune responses, such as fever and inflammation.1 It also increases the production of CRP.1

One-hundred and ninety-seven physically healthy individuals participated in the study.1 Sixty-nine of them had been diagnosed with IED, 61 had been diagnosed with psychiatric disorders not involving aggression, and 67 had no mental disorder.1 Researchers measured their CRP and IL-6 levels.1 They found that on average, both markers measured higher in participants with IED.1 In fact, the CRP levels were twice as high in those with IED compared with the results of healthy participants.1 Of course, both markers were significantly more elevated in the participants with the most extensive histories of aggressive behavior.1

Previous research has led to connections between an inflammatory response and depression or stress, and this study connected it further to IED.1

[1] Pedersen, T. (2013). Intermittent Explosive Disorder: Anger Disorder Linked to Inflammation. Psych Central. Retrieved on January 2, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/news/2013/12/31/intermittent-explosive-disorder-anger-disorder-linked-to-inflammation/63961.html

One Comment

  • Selena

    March 6, 2014, 7:12 pm

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