Nearly two-thirds of teenagers in the U.S. have acknowledged that they have experienced fits of anger – severe enough to the point that they threatened violence, damaged property or were violent towards another person, according to a new study from Harvard Medical School.  The research suggests that these attacks of rage are more prevalent among teens than previously thought.

To add to these findings, the study also found that one out of every 12 adolescents in the U.S. – translating to nearly six million teenagers – could be diagnosed with Intermittent Explosive Disorder (IED), a condition in which a person is plagued by uncontrollable anger attacks unrelated to a specific mental disorder.

Based on a national survey of 10,148 adolescents –  the National Comorbidity Survey Replication Adolescent Supplement – the findings revealed the need for identify and treating IED early, possibly through school programs, the researchers said.

“If we can detect IED early and intervene with effective treatment right away, we can prevent a substantial amount of future violence perpetration and associated psychopathology,” Ronald Kessler, senior author and McNeil family professor of health care policy at Harvard Medical School, said in a statement.

IED typically begins in late childhood and persists through a person’s middle years.  In order to be diagnosed, a person must have multiple instances of uncontrollable anger attacks – “completely out of proportion with the precipitating event” – that have resulted in violence or damage to property, according to the Mayo Clinic.  The syndrome is often linked with the later onset of other debilitating conditions, such as depression and alcohol and drug abuse, Kessler said.

However, the study’s findings also indicated that IED often goes under treated – with only 37.8 percent of youths with IED getting treatment for emotional problems the year before the study.  Only 6.5 percent of those with IED obtained treatment specifically targeting anger.

The study was published in the journal Archives of General Psychiatry.

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