Verbal versus physical aggression in Intermittent Explosive Disorder

Psychiatry Res. 2015 Feb 28;225(3):531-9. doi: 10.1016/j.psychres.2014.11.052. Epub 2014 Dec 8.


Intermittent Explosive Disorder (IED) is the only adult psychiatric diagnosis for which pathological aggression is primary. DSM-IV criteria focused on physical aggression, but Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) allows for an IED diagnosis in the presence of frequent verbal aggression with or without concurrent physical aggression. It remains unclear how individuals with verbal aggression differ from those with physical aggression with respect to cognitive-affective deficits and psychosocial functioning. The current study compared individuals who met IED criteria with either frequent verbal aggression without physical aggression (IED-V), physical aggression without frequent verbal aggression (IED-P), or both frequent verbal aggression and physical aggression (IED-B) as well as a non-aggressive personality-disordered (PD) comparison group using behavioral and self-report measures of aggression, anger, impulsivity, and affective lability, and psychosocial impairment. Results indicate all IED groups showed increased anger/aggression, psychosocial impairment, and affective lability relative to the PD group. The IED-B group showed greater trait anger, anger dyscontrol, and aggression compared to the IED-V and IED-P groups. Overall, the IED-V and IED-P groups reported comparable deficits and impairment. These results support the inclusion of verbal aggression within the IED criteria and suggest a more severe profile for individuals who engage in both frequent verbal arguments and repeated physical aggression.

Keywords: Aggression; Anger; Intermittent Explosive Disorder.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aggression / psychology*
  • Anger
  • Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders
  • Disruptive, Impulse Control, and Conduct Disorders / classification
  • Disruptive, Impulse Control, and Conduct Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Disruptive, Impulse Control, and Conduct Disorders / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Impulsive Behavior
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Personality Disorders / psychology
  • Verbal Behavior*
  • Violence / psychology*
  • Young Adult