Nearly two thirds of U.S. teenagers report that they were involved in violent behavior that included damaging property, a new Harvard study says.
Almost every teenager goes through the phase where breaking rules displays courage. But, the researchers point out that intermittent explosive disorder (IED) is more than just puberty kicking in. IED is a dangerous disorder where a teen can display aggressive behavior at the slightest provocation.
The study found that about 1 in 12 teenagers in the U.S. meets criteria for a diagnosis of Intermittent Explosive Disorder (IED), a news release said.
"We're talking about dysfunctional anger and destructive behavior that may cause injuries that require medical attention or destroying things of non-trivial value. A lot of kids have anger attacks, but those with this disorder have a chronic problem that's likely due to a biological predisposition." study leader and Harvard epidemiologist Ronald Kessler told Boston.com.
The researchers say that studies on IED have been almost exclusively focused on adults and that IED is both undertreated and understudied in teenagers.
Teenagers who get angry often don't get the required medical attention. The study reported that "only 6.5% of respondents with 12-month IED were treated specifically for anger".
"I think one reason [IED] is understudied is that people who have these anger problems very often do not consider it a problem. 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," said Ronald Kessler to TIME.
The study involved some 6,500 teenagers who were assessed for behavior problems like mood disorders. Parents of these kids too were asked to complete a questionnaire.
In the study group, 63 percent reported lifetime anger attacks that included destroying property. Of these more than 7 percent met DSM-IV criteria for lifetime IED. Researchers also found that kids diagnosed with IED were likely to suffer from other mood disorders.
A related study says that childhood exposure to trauma and stress disorders lead to kids becoming violent and displaying signs of IED.
"Given the substantial consequences of IED for individuals and society, research is sorely needed to resolve diagnostic disagreements, uncover risk and protective factors, and develop strategies for screening, early detection, and effective treatment," Kessler and team write in the study.
The study is published in the Archives of General Psychiatry.