Is Road Rage a Mental Disorder? Here’s a Look at the Facts
Updated: May 5
Road rage is dangerous for everyone. Losing your temper involves a loss of self-control that might lead to a regrettable situation—especially when operating a vehicle. In fact, one study revealed that aggressive driving contributed to 34 percent of driver error–related accidents. Violent altercations are not predictable. Launching into a driver's tirade could cause an equally violent reaction in your target. Things could end badly for everyone involved.
Most people likely realize road rage is a bad idea. They may feel compelled to lose their temper and self-control—leading some to wonder, do these outbursts constitute a mental disorder? Road rage is not itself a disorder, but such outbursts could contribute to a larger mental health disorder known as IED (Intermittent Explosive Disorder). Here’s a closer look at how road rage fits into the larger spectrum of IED.
Say Hello to Intermittent Explosive Disorder (IED)
Intermittent explosive disorder (IED) is the name given to recurrent outbursts that demonstrate a lack of control. The condition doesn't only involve outbursts while driving. Any sudden explosive, aggressive behavior that consists of overreacting to a situation might be defined as intermittent explosive disorder.
Blowups at the office involving a boss screaming at a subordinate represents one example. People do recognize this as poor behavior, and if it's recurrent & intense it might be constitute a psychopathology.
Raging drivers' behavior might be somewhat expected; though driving is stressful, the key here is in how often people express aggressive road rage.
If you experience road rage incidents multiples times a week over the course of several months, then this may be a sign of an underlying disorder.
Road rage is never acceptable and can lead to civil and criminal consequences. Anyone experiencing frequent road rage episodes might find it best to seek help.
What Are the Symptoms?
People aren't always self-reflective. They might not see how troubling their behavior is. Blaming other drivers for their actions could lessen the impetus to change driving behavior. Don't be dismissive of any problems you embody. Be self-aware, and stay on the alert for signs. Take note of how often you experience these symptoms:
Yelling, screaming, and cursing
Feeling consistently angry and irritable
Racing, anxious thoughts
There are many ways the condition manifests itself. Behaving in socially unacceptable ways such as challenging other drivers to a fight or using rude gestures may indicate something's wrong.
But if such outbursts are rare, then you may just be having a bad day or you might be just uffering from a lack of sleep. Regardless, allowing the problem to fester won't help the situation at all.
How to Manage Your Symptoms
Taking deliberate actions to deal with frequent road rage and IED symptoms must become a priority. Don't contribute to the problem by being a bad driver. Follow the rules. Avoid allowing anger to overtake you if something doesn't go your way. Try counting down and deep breathing exercises to relax if a problem arises. Watching educational mental health videos can be helpful to learn other ways to manage your emotions.
Seeking help from a professional might be necessary. A therapist could provide insights into how to alleviate the problem. Try to learn what you can about IED. And don't delay taking action to deal with it.