Intermittent explosive disorder appears to result from a combination of biological and environmental factors. Most people with the disorder grew up in families where explosive behavior and verbal and physical abuse were common. Being exposed to such violence at an early age makes it more likely for children to develop the same traits as they mature. There may also be a genetic component through which the susceptibility to the disorder is passed from parents to children.
The majority of cases occur in persons younger than 35 years of age. There is some evidence that the neurotransmitter serotonin may play a role in this disorder.
The disorder is probably more common than realized and may be an important cause of violent behavior. Some studies have found that intermittent explosive disorder is more common in men.