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Rage as a Mental Disorder

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Remy Melinda at Live Science has an article on the diagnosis of Intermittent Explosive Disorder (IED) which features this quote from Professor Emil F. Coccaro of the University of Chicago:

IED is a behavioral disorder that is a medical condition in the same way that depression or panic disorder is -- it is not simply 'bad behavior,'" said Emil F. Coccaro, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral neuroscience at the University of Chicago. "Aggressive behavior is under genetic influence and IED runs in families.

All behavior is under the influence of genes, that's what it means to say that we are biological creatures.  But just because some defined behavior is under genetic influence does not mean it's pathological in any medical sense.  After all, some folks are impatient at red lights and drive too fast, but they do not need medical intervention any more so than those who experience displeasure at waiting in line at the bank.  No, these folks need to learn what every parent teaches a child: patience is a virtue."

Now some may argue that the very idea of IED is that the behavior is so out of the ordinary that it must be pathological: that we're not talking about tempestuous drivers but those who exhibit behavior that is so disproportionate to the circumstances that it's, well, pathological.  But, of course, this doesn't help because the marker between conduct that is unwise and pathological cannot be merely that it's pathological.

The real lure of IED is the idea that it involves impaired volition - an irresistible impulse.  And linking it to genetic influences simply furthers the notion that folks with immodest tempers simply can't help themselves because of their biology.  It's the new biological predestination which strongly implies that we can't blame people for their conduct because their genes (or brains) made them do it.  But our brains (and genes) are us.   

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This reminds me of the guy who said, "I wouldn't need anger management classes if you'd just stop pissing me off."

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