Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Medicalizing rage/anger

I saw a news report last evening that certainly caught my attention. A study by researchers at the University of Chicago’s medical school states that “intermittent explosive disorder” may be more common than previously thought. It may affect up to 16 million Americans, more individuals than are diagnosed with bipolar disorder or schizophrenia.

The definition of “intermittent explosive disorder” involves multiple angry/violent outbursts way out of proportion to the situation. It includes road rage, spousal abuse and throwing things or ‘trashing the place’ in anger. It includes actions up to and including killing someone.

I agree whole heartedly that these individual’s need treatment. They need treatment before they hurt or kill someone or hurt themselves. That treatment certainly includes counseling and, quite possibly, medications. I know that to get insurance to pay for treatment and medication you need a “codable” diagnosis, but aren’t we going too far in medicalizing what in many cases is less a disease and more a behavior problem? No one is responsible if it’s a diagnosable disease/illness. People need to learn to get along in society with all the other folks in society. If their behavior falls out of the range of behavior you need to function properly society, get them the help they need, but don’t tell them they have an illness. Medicalizing such behavior demeans the individual and it demeans their actions (responsibilities are just as much a part of functioning in society as are your rights). It also demeans all the individuals with diseases (psychiatric and otherwise) that require treatment.

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