Those drivers stuck bumper-to-bumper who suddenly lose it, screaming at other drivers and pounding the wheel, may be suffering from intermittent explosive disorder, a rarely diagnosed but surprisingly common mental illness, says a Harvard Medical School study published yesterday, the Dallas Morning News reports. The study, in the Archives of General Psychiatry June issue, says that as many as 8.6 million adults each year will experience an episode of the disorder. It is reflected well beyond roadways: in violent attacks, spousal abuse, and other outbursts that occur for for little or no apparent reason.
The study, led by Ronald Kessler, a Harvard professor of health care policy, said the condition may predispose people to other forms of mental illness and to alcohol and drug abuse. Dallas psychiatrist Joel Holiner said new studies indicate that the disorder is more common than once thought “because it involves violence, particularly in young people.” Society is more focused on violence than it used to be, he said. Because violence these days is often more lethal than when a couple of kids just duked it out behind the school, people are no longer interested in explaining it away.