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June 29, 2006
Medicalizing Road Rage
Have you ever jumped out of your car and smashed someone else's windshield because they didn't use their blinker? Or has anyone done it to you? If so, someone might be suffering from intermittent explosive disorder.
"A little-known mental disorder marked by episodes of unwarranted anger is more common than previously thought, a study funded by the National Institute of Mental Health has found. Depending upon how broadly it's defined, intermittent explosive disorder (IED) affects as many as 7 percent of adults — 11-16 million Americans — in their lifetimes.
People with IED may attack others and their possessions, causing bodily injury and property damage. To be diagnosed with IED, an individual must have had three episodes of impulsive aggressiveness "grossly out of proportion to any precipitating psychosocial stressor," at any time in their life, according to the standard psychiatric diagnostic manual. The person must have "all of a sudden lost control and broke or smashed something worth more than a few dollars…hit or tried to hurt someone…or threatened to hit or hurt someone."
People who had three such episodes within the space of one year — a more narrowly defined subgroup — were found to have a much more persistent and severe disorder, particularly if they attacked both people and property. The latter group caused 3.5 times more property damage than other violent IED sub-groups. Affecting nearly 4 percent of adults within any given year — 6-8 million Americans — the disorder leads to a mean of 43 attacks over the course of a lifetime and is associated with substantial functional impairment."
I can't imagine the commercials we are likely to see when anger calming drugs hit the market.
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