Is This Teen Angst or an Uncontrollable Anger Disorder?

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With all those raging hormones, every teenager is bound to “lose it” at one time or another. But a recent study suggests that adolescents’ attacks of anger may indicate something more serious than your standard puberty-related mood swings: nearly two-thirds of youth report having had a bout of uncontrollable anger that involved threatening violence, destroying property or engaging in violence toward others, and nearly 8% — or close to 6 million teens — meet the criteria for intermittent explosive disorder (IED), which is characterized by persistent, out-of-control anger attacks that can’t be explained by a mental or medical disorder or substance use.

The findings, by researchers at Harvard Medical School, came from national surveys of nearly 6,500 American teens, aged 13 to 17, and their parents. The researchers found that IED was more common than thought, and that it is severe and persistent; kids usually start showing signs of IED in late childhood and the disorder persists through adolescence, the authors say. IED in teens is also linked with later problems, like depression and substance abuse in adulthood.

The study found, however, that many teens weren’t getting the help they needed. Among the study participants, 38% of those with IED received treatment for emotional problems in the year prior to the survey, but only 17% of these teens — or just 6.5% of all teens who had diagnosable IED — had received treatment specifically for anger.

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If IED could be detected and treated early, however, clinicians could help prevent a substantial amount of future violence and related mental harms, said senior author Ronald Kessler, professor of health care policy at Harvard Medical School.

To meet the definition of IED, according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, a person must have three episodes of “impulsive aggressiveness grossly out of proportion to any precipitating psychosocial stressor,” at any time during their lives. In the current study, the researchers also used narrower definitions of IED that required attacks of anger within the previous 12 months and found that many teens met the standard. (The study excluded teens with other mental or emotional disorders like bipolar disorder, ADHD, oppositional defiant disorder and conduct disorder.)

“It’s a problem because it really gets in the way of your life,” says Kessler. “There are lots of things people don’t get treatment for because it doesn’t really impact them. This does. The problem is an awful lot of people have it — more than I thought — it’s awfully chronic, and it’s impairing.”

(MORE: Good Grief! Psychiatry’s Struggle to Define Mental Illness Goes Awry)

The authors find that IED is not only underdiagnosed, but understudied as well. They write: “The number of PubMed research reports dealing with panic attacks is roughly 60 times the number dealing with anger attacks even though the lifetime prevalence of IED is considerably higher than the prevalence of panic disorder.”

Part of the problem may be that overly angry or aggressive people fail to acknowledge their own behavior. “I think one reason [IED] is understudied is that people who have these anger problems very often do not consider it a problem. They don’t go in for help. They may get arrested, but they don’t seek help on their own,” says Kessler. “Some things like this and other social disorders can fall through the cracks, and this is one of them.”

The authors say further research is needed to understand the risk factors for IED in teens and to improve diagnosis, screening and treatments.

The findings are published in the journal Archives of General Psychiatry.

MORE: A Blood Test to Diagnose Depression in Teens?

8 comments
finalromanimperator
finalromanimperator

LOL play Call of Duty multiplayer, Mr. Scientist. Get a clue, American clowns. You are the worst of the West, the Far West is acquiescent to decline, not only not defending itself, but opting to maximize the process of self-implosion. The West is self-imploding, nuclear-style, doubtlessly. Labeling moral decadence as disease when the "condition" is a matter of mere self-governorship and training in ethical self-mastery of human free will (genuine involuntary disease I do not under-appreciate or belittle sufferers of true disease) and selling the masses another necromancy potion of unnaturalness accelerates the Spenglerian entropy. I imagine the "Adderall method" shall be used for the unruly, spoiled, sheltered brat-face teenagers of this, our worst scummy generation; IED shall magically be our nation's top disease; and the established, plutocratic counter-elite of industrial military geniuses has just the right chemicals for our poor, poor children. Who knows, we give them, on the alleged grounds of "treating ADHD", methamphetamine ("Desoxyn"), speed ("Adderall") and cocaine-in-a-bottle ("Ritalin"), and now we got "Qysmia" (speed and downer combo, a.k.a. the vulgarly termed speedball -- can you say, Winning?!) coming out too for our neurasthenic, coach potato skeleton, sedentary civilization!, I do wonder what is next in terms of this new affliction of IED infecting our poor youth? Why not bring back phenobarbital and mix things up with some random wild substance, and then bribe every publicity channel to spread the word...? Heck, why not try a nerve agent at this point...? Our suicidal nihilism has long been necrotizing, LOL. Yes, we are approaching the quietus and knell of terminal kind, folks, sorry. Maybe sooner is better here, who knows anymore in this surreal nightmare civilization of glorified nihilism and Sadean-Nietzschean anomie ...

Talendria
Talendria

I find this very disturbing.  By taking what is essentially a temper tantrum and listing it as a pathology in the DSM, haven't they enabled the parents of unruly kids to request an IEP that allows their child to remain in a public school despite his volatile temper?  How is it possible to differentiate this supposed disorder from simple non-compliance?  When it comes to behavioral issues, there's a fine line between can't and won't.

I also find it highly suspect that the APA decided to include this disorder in the DSM but not sensory processing disorder, when the latter affects a larger percentage of the population.  Could it have anything to do with the fact that one is treated with pharmaceuticals but the other isn't?

docww
docww

Is there really such a thing as IED or is it just another label thrown at a set of symptoms. There is mounting evidence that our current diet is driving many brain disorders including IED. The combination of excessive fructose primarily from sugar and HFCS and high glycemic carbohydrates mainly from grains can eventually adversely affect brain function triggering a condition called Carbohydrate Associated Reversible Brain syndrome or CARB syndrome. IED fits under the CARB syndrome umbrella. Learn more at http://carbsyndrome.com.

Gin Heedneeds
Gin Heedneeds

Text 3060402 to 69937 for 'Night Time by Tyler Shemwell...G-ESTEEM

/I'm i doing too much/Or losing my touch/

...a brilliantly written song about "can't wait until night time to party," with lines like,/Riding through the slum/Where i'm from/A place where crack fiends and fat girls love me the most/Some never made it home to take their work clothes off/Afraid they gonna miss something/.

-"Real and A Good Time"

G-ESTEEM-A tenacious confidence;mental toughness"If god is with me than who can be against me? I can do anything. G-ESTEEM Go hard,we dying soon.G-ESTEEM "The game is in belief"

STAY BOW-LEGGED amp; THICK. G-ESTEEM (Presidential Election Nov 6, 2012) 44-Life

SuperShrug
SuperShrug

Yeah.. check out my smashed Genesis, SNES, Dreamcast, and Playstation controllers, the iPod with the smashed "sick iPod" screen. I'm sure it was all just teen angst... or Krizalid.

Toothy Grins
Toothy Grins

Anger is a strange emotion.  I am not quite sure if it was designed to protect us or get us into hot water?   any thoughts? 

Commentonitall
Commentonitall

You my friend hit the nail on the head.  The exact problem with society is that instead of saying cut it out and kicking their butts we say don't worry society will help you with medications and labels.  I know there are studies out there to prove hitting as punishment is not healthy, but I have a steady job, never been arrested and have respect for my elders and I got the belt.  Kid's nowadays have an entitlement problem.  Just wait 20 years and all this giving credit and rewards for nothing will be our downfall.  There needs to be a winner and loser, not everyone can win and sometimes we lose.  Kid's need to be taught that and taught that their behavior will not be tolerated in society.  I can picture the work place of the future now.

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divorceemeet

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