The Anger Epidemic: Nearly 66 Percent of American Teens Admit to Anger Attacks
Anger, like the heat index, seems to be rising among America’s teens. In a new study, nearly two-thirds admit to angry outbursts, rage, anger attacks, and having an explosive temper. Some experts are saying that the real reason for your child’s angry outbursts might be IED, or Intermittent Explosive Disorder. This still-controversial diagnosis is characterized by anger attacks and uncontrollable fits of rage.
Ronald Kessler, a psychiatric epidemiologist at Harvard Medical School in Boston, is the lead author of the study, and says that it’s clear by the findings that we need to take the matter more seriously. Kessler says IED is the mirror image of panic disorder, because the rage emerges suddenly and is excessive, regardless of what triggered it. Often, the anger doesn’t even make sense. "Without a really good reason, people all of a sudden feel very fearful, or very angry, and do something excessive," Kessler said. "It's either fight or flight."
Currently, there is no cure for IED, but the core of the problem, according to most experts, is that the teens who display the characteristics of the disorder have not developed appropriate coping skills to deal with their anger.
In James Lehman’s article, Anger with an Angle: Is Your Child Using Anger to Control You? on Empowering Parents, he argues that anger in kids is a problem, just like anything else. “The goal for children as they mature is to learn appropriate coping skills and ways to manage their anger or, as I like to say, solve the problem of anger. That’s because anger is a problem—it’s not just a feeling.” Lehman’s advice to parents is that they plan ahead what they will do before their child acts out, including coming up with consequences that are their child’s “currency,” meaning, a consequence that will matter to kids. He also advises parents to talk to their child about their outbursts after the fact, help them identify and avoid triggers, and perhaps most importantly, discuss what they will do differently the next time they are angry.
“I think you have to ask yourself, ‘What's the worst that could happen if I don’t let my child manipulate me with their temper?” says Lehman. “Will your child’s behavior escalate when you start to deal with it? Yes, it will. But I think the more guidance and support you have, the better you'll be able to manage.