Almost two-thirds of teens have engaged in a threatening or physically violent anger attack in their lives, according to a new study, with one in 12 teens actually meeting the diagnostic criteria for intermittent explosive disorder (IED).
The new study, published in the journal Archives of General Psychiatry, shows that uncontrollable anger is quite common among teens, but is not being treated, Harvard Medical School researchers said. The uncontrollable anger researchers studied included property damage, threats of violence, or actually engaging in violence.
The researchers found that more than one third of teens with intermittent explosive disorder were treated for emotional problems in the year leading up to the study, yet just 6.5 percent of teens with the condition actually received anger treatment.
The condition may be understudied because "people who have these anger problems very often do not consider it a problem," study researcher Ronald Kessler, of Harvard, told TIME. "They don't go in for help. They may get arrested, but they don't seek help on their own. ... Some things like this and other social disorders can fall through the cracks, and this is one of them."
According to the Mayo Clinic, symptoms of intermittent explosive disorder include having these violent episodes of aggression that last around 10 to 20 minutes. Before or during the episodes, the person may experience rage, tightness in the chest, headache, irritability, tremors and tingling sensations.
"There were lots of holes in my bedroom wall," Brian Kearney, a 21-year-old who experienced intermittent explosive disorder, told ABC News. "I would say I was a little on edge."
"I didn't develop appropriate coping mechanisms," Kearney told ABC News.
While there is no known cause for the condition, the Mayo Clinic reported that it's probably a mix of environmental factors (like growing up in a home with abuse or "explosive behavior") and genetics. The condition is usually treated with therapy, though there are also some drugs that could help.
The new study included data from the National Comorbidity Survey Replication Adolescent Supplement, which includes 10,148 teens.
According to the researchers, intermittent explosive disorder is given as a diagnosis when a person has had at least three incidences of being aggressive that the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders defines as "grossly out of proportion to any precipitating psychosocial stressor."
LiveScience explained how researchers were able to define intermittent explosive disorder in their study population:
They defined IED in their study in two ways: a narrow definition in which participants had to experience three of these anger attacks in a year's time, and a broader definition that allowed these multiple attacks to occur any time in participants' lives.
"It's a problem because it really gets in the way of your life," Kessler told TIME. "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."
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