Intermittent explosive disorder

By HSC Staff Writer • Published: September 25th, 2006
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

If you spend a lot of time in your car, sooner or later you’re likely to witness an act of road rage when an unhappy motorist loses his cool and becomes abusive, or worse, to other drivers.

But road rage, or the impulse that sparks it, isn’t limited to the highway. It’s actually one version of a diagnosable condition known as intermittent explosive disorder, or I-E-D. And it can happen in any setting, at home, at work, in a supermarket checkout line.

Wherever it occurs, I-E-D is marked by recurrent episodes of serious assaultive acts that are out of proportion to the psychosocial stressors present in the environment.

I-E-D has been a recognized disorder for a long time, but research recently published in the Archives of General Psychiatry show that it’s much more prevalent than previously thought. Of nearly ten-thousand people who completed an in-depth psychological survey, seven percent said they had experienced feelings of blind rage in their lifetime not just once but dozens of times. The outbursts of aggressive behavior frequently resulted in property damage or injury to others.

The condition often begins in childhood or adolescence and can later become associated with psychiatric problems like depression, anxiety and substance abuse, which are more likely to lead an individual with the disorder to seek treatment. Once in therapy, people with I-E-D respond best to a combination of counseling and medication.

And that makes navigating the road of life a lot safer for all of us.