Teens & Angry Outbursts

Rage and aggression problems are common

(RxWiki News) A lot of kids react to triggers with extreme levels of anger and aggression. Catching early warning signs and starting treatment early may provide the best outcome.

A recent study showed that nearly two-thirds of U.S. adolescents have intermittent explosive disorder. Even when these kids are sent to a therapist, they are not always treated for their anger and aggression issues.

"Talk to a therapist if your child has extreme fits of rage."

Ronald Kessler, PhD, professor of health care policy at Harvard Medical School, led a study into intermittent explosive disorder (IED) in the U.S. adolescent population.

IED is when a person has repeated bouts of anger and aggression that are greatly out of proportion in light of the trigger. Road rage, temper tantrums and throwing/breaking objects in a state of rage are forms of IED.

Three separate episodes of this kind of disproportionate, impulsive aggression in a person’s lifetime qualify them as having IED.

Data from the National Comorbidity Survey Replication Adolescent Supplement was used to determine the rate of IED in U.S. adolescents. The study found that 1 in 12 youths qualified for IED based on a survey of 10,148 teens aged 13-17.

After eliminating teens who had other mental health problems that could account for or contribute to the IED from the study, researchers were left with a final group of 6,483.

According to the authors, “Nearly two-thirds of adolescents (63.3 percent) reported lifetime anger attacks that involved destroying property, threatening violence, or engaging in violence”. Of that group, 7.8 percent met the criteria for lifetime IED.

Dr. Kessler said that IED often comes with the territory in kids with depression and substance abuse disorders. While 64 percent of these kids received professional help with emotional problems, only 6.5 percent of kids with IED get professional help for their anger specifically.

Dr. Kessler said, “If we can detect IED early and intervene with effective treatment right away, we can prevent a substantial amount of future violence perpetration and associated psychopathology.”

In conclusion, authors said, “Research is needed to uncover risk and protective factors for the disorder, develop strategies for screening and early detection, and identify effective treatments.”

This study was published in July in the Archives of General Psychiatry. Funding for the study was provided by the National Institute of Mental Health, the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the John W. Alden trust. No conflicts of interest were found.

Review Date: 
July 2, 2012