Intermittent Explosive Disorder -- pathology or psychobabble?

There’s an article on today discussing a recent study undertaken to investigate what’s called “intermittent explosive disorder”:

What do you think? Does IED indeed describe a pathology, or is it rather a case of creating a diagnosis in search of a real disorder? I don’t know enough psychology to answer with any confidence, although I have witnessed adults blow up in tantrums that seemed way beyond what the situation merited.

I don’t know if it’s true or false, but I’m sure it’ll be offered as a defense in an upcoming Law & Order episode.

Malfunctioning Eddie: Look! That time I barely exploded at all!
Dr. Perceptron: We can control that with medication.

Well, it’s clearly disfunctional behaviour. I would imagine in many circumstances people can lose their jobs, spouses, family, etc because of it.

Assuming it has a set of clear diagnostic criteria, and can be differentially diagnosed from other similar conditions, I would have to say it’s a real disorder.

A lot of “real” disorders are ordinary behavior carried to extremes. How is this any different?

Uh, that’s what a “disorder” is. Lots of people double check that they’ve locked the door - it becomes a disorder (OCD) when it interferes with that person getting other stuff done.

Everyone occasionally loses their temper, but if it happens often, and you assult people, or damage property, eventually that’s going to catch up to you.

I opened this thread expecting something more, er, digestive …

Are you effing kidding me?!

Kids going through adolescence have multiple outbursts that are way out of proportion to the situation and THAT is considered a DISORDER?

What next, Terminal Boredom Disorder?

“Hey Doc, my sixteen year old daughter doesn’t want to go to church picnics with us anymore. She says there’s nothing for her to do there. We think she might have a disorder.”
This is more than a little disconcerting:

followed by…

I don’t think a POLL is enough evidence for me to consider letting you put my teenager on some sort of medication for what up until a few minutes ago wasn’t a disorder at all.
This made me laugh:

:smack: Maybe it’s news to them because you’re making shit up? Good grief.

I just can’t believe that a teenager raised in such a structured, disciplined household could go grow up to throw tantrums and not take responsibility for their own actions. How is that possible?!

Don’t confuse a “disorder” with a bona fide mental illness. You can’t use a disorder as a valid defense in a criminal trial. There are a lot of inmates in the prison in which my husband works which have been diagnosed with a character (personality) disorder. It’s not recognized as a form of insanity, in other words. There are some times when medications can help people control various aspects of it, but it’s not the same as an organic mental issue like schizophrenia.

Think of it more along the lines of recognizing a group of identifiable behaviors and adjusting current treatments to meet the needs of the people who have them. No one’s going to use this as a means of excusing criminal behavior*, but hopefully, if the data supports it, it can help us identify behaviors in the young which may be able to be modified before they become uncontrollable.

  • Hopefully. You never know what some defense attorneys will try, but I’d be hard-pressed to imagine it would fly.

Well, it is listed in the DSM, so apparently at least some experts consider it to be real. has a short article on it.

It is classified as an impulse control disorder unsurprisingly. It is an Axis I disorder, which includes the major psychiatric disorders, rather than an Axis II disorder like the personality disorders.

If you take the view that all our actions are caused by chemical reactions in the brains, then anything you do that would be considered abnormal by society at large would be a disorder or malfunction of said chemical reactions. Road rage would fall under that category.

However, I’m of the belief that one -can- voluntarily exert control over such happenings (to a certain point). IMHO part of the reason that men apparently are more suspectible to this kind of stuff is that women have had so much more practice at learning to live with roller coaster hormones & recognizing danger signs of when they’re feeling a certain way because of out-of-whack chemicals & coping with them. When men do encounter testerone/adrenaline flactuations they’re less able to control their emotions since they have less experience doing so.

So the answer to the OP’s headline… “yes”… pathology in that there’s a biological basis for it… psychobabble in the implication that it can’t be self-controlled.

Heh, I usually just refer to this disorder as “bitchy”.

Yesterday my wife began yelling when she got home from the grocery store. The clerk had put her food into a cloth bag she carried (to save on plastic bags), but when she got home, she found that he’d put it into a plastic bag first and put THAT into the cloth bag.

I heard the outburst and thought she’d cut herself or something. Came running into the room to find out it was over a plastic bag “wasted”. “Don’t we recycle those ourselves, so it won’t be in a landfill anyway?” I asked. “yeah, but that’s not the point – it’s just stupid,” she ranted.

Well, sure it is. We’re surrounded by exasperating stupidity most of the time. I reminded her that George Carlin said something to the effect of, “think of how stupid the average person is. Half of them are dumber than that.”

But it hardly seems worth a rise in blood pressure.

Is that the kind of thing they’re talking about?


Don’t worry. I’m sure Big Pharma already has a drug for it, and they’ll soon be starting an ad campaign that convinces half the population that they have it.

Television: “Do you sometimes feel mad? A little angrier than you should? Ask your doctor about Keepitin. Side effects include dry mouth and rage.”

“Medicine has made great progress in modern times: What used to be called an itch is now called an allergy”

“Is your husband an asshole? Maybe he’s just suffering from SAS, Seasonal Asshole Syndrome. Up to 5 million Americans suffer from it. Keepitin has been shown to be effective against SAS as well as IED.”

I think you’re jumping to straw men slightly… that passage about diagnosing a teenager didn’t say anything about medication, and wasn’t the same person who referred to ‘treatment with antidepressants.’ In fact, since the person who said she just diagnosed a teenager was referred to as a psychologist, she wouldn’t even be able to prescribe meds at all… right??


If this is going to become yet another thing that people can say in a piously calm voice when you’ve already gone off your rocker, please spare me. I do over-react sometimes but only because I’m overreacting doesn’t mean you can disregard my reasons under “PMS”, “she’s got a horrible temper” (one of my co-workers was terribly surprised to hear Mom say this, in 5 years of working together he’d never seen me lose my temper in any way he didn’t consider unjustified) or “intermitent attacks of the TNTs” :stuck_out_tongue:

“Women who are pregnant or nursing should consult their doctor before taking Keepitin, even if THE LITTLE BASTARD JUST WON’T STOP FUCKING CRYING!”

There seems to be an assumption in this thread that giving a name to a set of behaviors excuses the person with them from blame or responsibility. As long as it’s agreed that is not the case, then why not call it a name?
I can certainly identify with the road rage part- I’ve seen several people who appear totally normal in other settings go nuts when they are behind the wheel.
My ex-husband is very much like that (and, like the article mentions is very common in people with road rage, has substance abuse problems).
X drove my daughter home from college 2 weeks ago, and she related that there were 3 times she feared for her safety because of his outlandish behavior. At one point someone cut him off. In response he tailgated while blowing his horn nonstop until they came to a light. Then he pulled along side the car and screamed insults at the person in the other car for the duration of the light. The cars then separated, but due to the ebb and flow of traffic got close again several minutes later. “There’s the asshole,” he told my daughter.
She very diplomatically bit her tongue.