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Anger disorder more common than thought

Written by: Staff

NEW YORK, June 7 (Reuters) A surprising number of Americans suffer from a psychiatric disorder marked by angry, often violent, outbursts, -- called intermittent explosive disorder, or IED -- a national survey suggests.

Based on the findings, up to 16 million US adults may have the condition. People with the disorder erupt in reactions that are grossly out of proportion to a perceived provocation -- attacking another person, threatening others with violence or destroying property.

Until now, there had been no good estimates of how prevalent IED is among Americans, and the new findings indicate that it is much more common than experts have suspected.

The survey, published in the Archives of General Psychiatry, included a nationally representative sample of 9,282 US adults.

Standard diagnostic interviews showed that when IED was broadly defined -- three or more outbursts in a person's lifetime -- 7 percent of respondents had suffered the disorder at some point.

Just over 5 percent met a narrower IED definition of three anger ''attacks'' in one year.

On average, these men and women started showing signs of IED at age 14, which means that early diagnosis may be vital to preventing the long-term consequences of the disorder, according to the researchers, led by Dr Ronald C Kessler of Harvard Medical School in Boston.

IED commonly preceded other mental health problems such as depression, anxiety and substance abuse. And while 60 per cent of survey respondents with the disorder said they had received psychiatric treatment for some emotional or substance abuse problem, relatively few -- 29 per cent -- ever got help specifically for their anger.

The implication, according to Kessler and his colleagues, is that people with IED are typically being treated for problems that arise secondary to the disorder, rather than the IED itself.

An important question, they conclude, is whether early detection and treatment of IED can prevent later depression, substance abuse and other mental health problems.

Since IED so often arises at a young age, the researchers write, early detection ''would most reasonably take place in schools and might well be an important addition to school-based violence prevention programs.'' REUTERS CH RK0930

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