Context: Epidemiologic studies of adults show that DSM-IV intermittent explosive disorder (IED) is a highly prevalent and seriously impairing disorder. Although retrospective reports in these studies suggest that IED typically begins in childhood, no previous epidemiologic research has directly examined the prevalence or correlates of IED among youth.
Objective: To present epidemiologic data on the prevalence and correlates of IED among US adolescents in the National Comorbidity Survey Replication Adolescent Supplement.
Design: United States survey of adolescent (age, 13-17 years) DSM-IV anxiety, mood, behavior, and substance disorders.
Setting: Dual-frame household-school samples.
Participants: A total of 6483 adolescents (interviews) and parents (questionnaires).
Main Outcome Measures: The DSM-IV disorders were assessed with the World Health Organization Composite International Diagnostic Interview (CIDI).
Results: Nearly two-thirds of adolescents (63.3%) reported lifetime anger attacks that involved destroying property, threatening violence, or engaging in violence. Of these, 7.8% met DSM-IV/ CIDI criteria for lifetime IED. Intermittent explosive disorder had an early age at onset (mean age, 12.0 years) and was highly persistent, as indicated by 80.1% of lifetime cases (6.2% of all respondents) meeting 12-month criteria for IED. Injuries related to IED requiring medical attention reportedly occurred 52.5 times per 100 lifetime cases. In addition, IED was significantly comorbid with a wide range of DSM-IV/ CIDI mood, anxiety, and substance disorders, with 63.9% of lifetime cases meeting criteria for another such disorder. Although more than one-third (37.8%) of adolescents with 12-month IED received treatment for emotional problems in the year before the interview, only 6.5% of respondents with 12-month IED were treated specifically for anger.
Conclusions: Intermittent explosive disorder is a highly prevalent, persistent, and seriously impairing adolescent mental disorder that is both understudied and undertreated. Research is needed to uncover risk and protective factors for the disorder, develop strategies for screening and early detection, and identify effective treatments.