Thursday, June 08, 2006

Intermittent Explosive Disorder Affects up to 16 Million Americans

Hat tip to Real Men Are Not

National Institute of Health

A little-known mental disorder marked by episodes of unwarranted anger is more common than previously thought, a study funded by the National Institutes of
Health's (NIH) National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) has found. Depending
upon how broadly it's defined, intermittent explosive disorder (IED) affects as
many as 7.3 percent of adults -- 11.5-16 million Americans -- in their lifetimes.
Some may see this disorder as giving people an excuse to say, "It's not my fault, I have intermittent explosive disorder." However, since most people who exhibit this disorder regularly blame those around them, this would be progress.

Having the problem categorized as a disorder should make thoughtful people pause before blurting out a question to the victim of this behavior asking what they did to set the other person off. (Victim blaming.)

The reason I hope naming this disorder reduces victim blaming is this quote from NIH

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."
If a response is not in proportion to the immediate stimulus and the outburst isn't an anomoly, then victim blaming must be thrown out as a possible explanation, whether the response is verbal abuse, physical abuse or rape.

Since a disorder is an internal disturbance in normal functioning, the blame for symptoms of the disorder are also internal to the person who harms others. Other people's actions which preceded the outburst are merely triggers for outbursts that are already bubbling just below the surface.

What may not be internal are the contributing factors that make someone a boiling cauldron. Theses contributing factors can persist long after the causes have been removed. An example of this suppresseda supressed feeling of powerlessness from childhood abuse that comes out in an adult as acts of domination.

The disconnect in causality (blaming victims rather than internal motivations) is why I would agree with using the term disorder. If the root cause is a feeling of powerlessness, then programs that only deal with anger may not be effective.

Since my preference is prevention maybe having this disorder named will help some people decide to get help before a court orders them to choose between jail and treatment.
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posted by Marcella Chester @ 9:19 AM   4 comments links to this post


At June 09, 2006 8:47 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

how about just sending him to jail? That sound like the right treatment to me.

At June 09, 2006 1:22 PM, Blogger Marcella Chester said...


I'd rather have people recognize this problem and deal with the real source of the behavior before anyone who could be labeled with this syndrome commits a crime.

Now, many people look the other way until the person commits a crime that horrifies us.

At May 23, 2008 3:33 PM, Anonymous IED does victimize the perp said...

The sad thing is that it. Any criminal who attacks people more then once can use this as a legal defense, and they do. They manage to garner sympathy and support. Some people even begin to think it's not their fault. This is a behavior based diagnosis so anyone who acts quickly in anger has it. We are a civilized society and we want to believe that there must be something wrong with you if you you are violent.

At July 18, 2009 10:12 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jail could make the problem worsen. some people have no idea what it is like to live with a person with IED. Our son is finally seeking help only after cutting himself. I don't know if he will ever be able to come home. It is a long painful process for the patient and family. He may have to live in a group home environement where he can be closely monitored.


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