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Is Road Rage More Than Just Bad Behavior?

Do you tailgate other cars when you want them to go faster? What about showing impatience by flashing your headlights? Do you honk your horn at other cars that seem to be a little slow reacting to a green light?

Watch out. Impulse reactions such as these are warning signs of a clinical disorder called INTERMITTENT EXPLOSIVE DISORDER, or IED. That is right! Road rage is now officially recognized as a form of mental illness.

A recent study funded by the National Institute of Mental Health found evidence of IED in 1 out of 20 Americans surveyed, meaning as many as 15 or 16 million of us are prone to road rage. According to lead author Ronald Kessler, a Harvard professor of health care policy, an awful lot of people in America have IED, a condition characterized by overreaction with explosive anger attacks that are out of proportion to the situation.

A big problem, according to Kessler, is they are not being treated because they do not think they have a problem. They think somebody else has a problem.

Experts worry that the rising trend of IED among teenagers may lead to future mental health problems such as alcoholism, depression, and domestic violence.

Once it is diagnosed, treatment for IED includes antidepressants, anger management, and cognitive behavioral therapy, or treatment based on the fact that feelings and actions are caused by thoughts and not people or events.

Not everybody thinks road rage should be blamed on a mental disorder. According to one survey, 75% think of IED as an excuse to avoid accepting responsibility. Crowded highways, greater urgency, sleep deprivation, added stress, poor driving habits, and more drivers with bad manners are also likely contributing factors to the rising number of road rage incidents.

Whatever the cause, road rage is now a common occurrence, with many incidents ending in violent behavior, destruction, or injury. To avoid potential problems while driving, always be courteous.

Tailgating, changing lanes without signaling, and other aggressive tactics are uncalled for unless you are the one looking for trouble. Avoid confrontation and eye contact with other drivers that may have done you wrong. Take a deep breath, let it go, and move on.

Dave Elger is a well respected authority within the running community having written hundreds of articles on the topics of running and wellness. You can contact him at He also supports the Okinawa Running Club.