Senior author Ronald Kessler and colleagues at the Harvard Medical School said the severe attacks of uncontrollable anger among adolescents are much more common than previously recognized.
The researchers used data from National Comorbidity Survey Replication Adolescent Supplement, a national face-to-face household survey of 10,148 U.S. adolescents ages 13-17 were interviewed from Feb. 5, 2001, through Jan. 31, 2004.
The study, published in the Archives of General Psychiatry, found close to 6 million adolescents met criteria for a diagnosis of Intermittent Explosive Disorder, a syndrome characterized by persistent uncontrollable anger attacks not accounted for by other mental disorders. Yet only 6.5 percent of adolescents with IED received professional treatment for their anger attacks, the study said.
The findings indicated that IED is a severe, chronic, commonly occurring disorder among adolescents, one that begins early in life, Kessler said.
The study showed 1-in-12 adolescents met criteria for IED, although 37.8 percent of youths with IED obtained treatment for emotional problems in the 12 months prior to the study interview and only 6.5 percent received treatment specifically for anger.
"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," Kessler said in a statement.