Red Queen of She'll be feverish after so much thinking and I have been cyber-friends for several years: we usually laugh at and get annoyed by the same things. She has a lot of common sense and a light touch. She radiates kindness, but when something gets her goat...
Mad enough to slap someone? It’s not your fault.
Yes, fellow slappers, finally, a plausible defense for our inordinate rage – we may be suffering from Intermittent Explosive Disorder (IED).
IED has been described in The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, that bible of mental health professionals, since its 1980 edition. It is classified as an impulse control disorder, along with kleptomania, pyromania and pathological gambling. However, IED is in the news lately because a team of researchers from Harvard Medical School and The University of Chicago have found the “disease” to be far more prevalent than was previously thought, afflicting as many as 16 million Americans. They are saying IED may be to blame for the rise in “road rage” plaguing our culture.
Huh. Aren’t we all angry from time to time with the stressors of modern life? I have been known to curse at other drivers (within the confines of my own vehicle), give my PC a good whack upside when it’s acting hinky, engage in a primal scream in response to endless automated phone menus. But we’re not talking about plain old losing one’s temper. IED anger is “grossly out of proportion to any precipitating psychosocial stressors.”
Persons with IED exhibit “several discrete episodes of failure to resist aggressive impulses that result in serious acts of assault or destruction of property” over the course of a lifetime. According to the Harvard and UC researchers, IED costs sufferers an average of $1359 in property damage. That’s not much. Heck, I only need to toss my bleeping computer out the window one time to meet that figure.
Anybody buying this theory yet? The researchers have linked IED to low serotonin levels. (Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that helps mediate the body’s production of adrenaline – think “fight or flight” response.) So if IED is a disease caused by a discrete neurochemical deficit, it can be treated with – you guessed it – medication!
I’ll admit I’m frustrated with my own “industry” of mental health professionals for making it all too easy for people to avoid taking responsibility for their behavior. Such disease-mongering has been an identifiable problem for at least three decades. They doubtless deserve a slap. But my experience is that these individuals are well-meaning. I believe they as much misled as misguided. So let’s dig a little deeper and ask, Qui bono?
The study I mention was funded by the National Institutes of Mental Health, a US government agency. Sounds like it might be legit. But keep in mind that pharmaceutical companies comprise the most powerful lobby in Washington DC, with enormous influence on how government research dollars are spent. (EU members, don’t pat yourselves on the back too vigorously – roughly half of the largest drug companies are European, so this is a global problem.) According to the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, in 1990 the big pharmaceutical companies allotted approximately 11 percent of sales revenues to research and development of new drugs, while more than three times that much – 36 percent – went toward “marketing and administration.” The investment is certainly paying off for them: From 1960 to 1980, prescription drug sales were fairly static as a percent of US gross domestic product, but from 1980 to 2000, they tripled. They now stand at more than $200 billion a year, with by far the largest increase being among neuropsychological medications.
Are you good and mad now? It’s not your fault. You’ve been provoked – 200 billion dollars’ worth. SLAP! Take that, drug companies!