NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


June 7, 2006

Road rage -- an uncontrollable outburst of anger that top researchers now say can be caused by a disease: "Intermittent explosive disorder," or IED, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.

A nationwide study, funded by NIMH and conducted by researchers at Harvard Medical School, examined more than 9,000 subjects:

  • With as many as 7 percent of them experiencing some form of IED, that extrapolates to 16 million people nationwide.
  • The average onset came at 14 years old, predating episodes of depression, anxiety and drug and alcohol abuse.
  • The average IED sufferer will fly into a rage 43 times in their lifetime, racking up more than $1,300 in damage to others' personal property.

"People think it's bad behavior and that you just need an attitude adjustment, but what they don't that there's a biology and cognitive science to this," says Dr. Emil Coccaro, the chairman of psychiatry at the University of Chicago's medical school and one of the study's authors.

The symptoms can be treated with antidepressants or anger-management therapy, Coccaro said, though less than one-third of sufferers have ever received treatment.

Source: Brent Hopkins, "Road rage more than rudeness; Combative drivers may have 'explosive disorder,' " LA Daily News, June 6, 2006.


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