Don’t call it road rage, writes the LA Times’ Janet Cromley. In what might come as comfort to Jake Plummer and Milton Bradley, we’ll now refer to the condition as “intermittent explosive disorder.”
As characterized by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders ” the standard diagnostic reference book for psychotherapists ” a person with intermittent explosive disorder has on several occasions been unable to resist aggressive impulses that result in serious harm to individuals or property; the degree of aggressiveness is “grossly out of proportion” to the situation; and the episodes are not better accounted for by another condition, such as ADHD, and are not due to the physiological effects of a drug or a general medical condition, such as head trauma or Alzheimer’s.
In some cases, the episode may be preceded by heart palpitations, head pressure or hearing an echo.
In short, true intermittent explosive disorder leaves garden-variety freeway altercations in the dust. In fact, even bona fide road rage ” which tends to get the most air-time in the nightly news ” isn’t how the disorder most often manifests itself.
More typical, says Kessler, is the person who gets furious at a spouse or child for a minor disagreement over something as mundane as dinner not being served on time or neglected chores.
“It’s true that periodically you hear about someone beating someone up at a baseball game,” says Kessler. “But much more common are the hidden cases where the victims are the spouse and kids.”