[vc_column width=”1/1″]What is aggressive behavior?
Aggressive behavior is behavior that causes physical or emotional harm to others, or threatens to. It can range from verbal abuse to the destruction of a victim’s personal property. People with aggressive behavior tend to be irritable, impulsive, and restless.
Aggressive behavior is intentional, meaning it’s done on purpose, violates social norms, and causes a breakdown in a relationship. Emotional problems are the most common cause of aggressive behavior.
Occasional outbursts of aggression are common and even normal. Aggressive behavior is a problem because it occurs frequently or in a pattern. Generally speaking, aggressive behavior stems from an inability to control behavior, or from a misunderstanding of what behaviors are appropriate.
Aggressive behavior can be reactive, or in retaliation. It can also be proactive, as an attempt to provoke a victim. It can be either overt or secretive. Aggressive behavior can also be self-directed. The key to handling aggressive behavior is to understand what the cause is.
What causes aggressive behavior?
A variety of factors can influence aggressive behavior, including:
• family structure
• relationships with others
• work or school environment
• societal or socioeconomic factors
• individual characteristics
• health conditions
• psychiatric issues – including antisocial personality disorder (disordered perceptions and interactions with others), attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), autism, borderline personality disorder (disorder characterized by unstable relationships), conduct disorder (behavior disorder of childhood), dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease and Huntington’s disease, intermittent explosive disorder (disorder characterized by extreme anger), oppositional defiant disorder (pattern of defiance and hostile behavior toward authority figures), post-traumatic stress disorder, schizophrenia, substance abuse
• life experiences
Aggression in children is often a byproduct of poor parenting, biological factors, or a lack of relationship skills. In many cases, the child is exposed to aggression or violence and imitates that behavior. A child might receive attention for it from parents, teachers, or peers. When parents ignore the behavior or unknowingly reward it, they can further encourage it.
In some children, aggressive behavior is a result of the manic stage of bipolar disorder. It can also be caused by irritability due to depression.
Sometimes, children will lash out due to fear or suspicion. This is more common in cases of schizophrenia, paranoia, or other psychotic conditions.
Aggression can also be a byproduct of the inability to deal with emotion, especially frustration. This is common in children who have conditions on the autism spectrum or mental retardation. If they become frustrated, they may be unable to rectify or verbalize the situation effectively. Children with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or other disruptive disorders may show lack of attention, lack of understanding, or impulsiveness. The consequences can be viewed as aggressive behaviors, especially if they disrupt social situations.
In adults, aggression can develop from negative life experiences or mental illness. In some cases, people who suffer from depression, anxiety, or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) unintentionally exhibit aggressive behaviors as a result of their condition. For those without an underlying medical or emotional disorder, aggressive behavior is usually a response to frustration. It can also occur when someone stops caring about others or the consequences of their behavior.
What symptoms might occur with aggression?
Aggression may accompany other symptoms that vary depending on the underlying disease, disorder or condition. Conditions that frequently affect behavior may also have other psychological, cognitive or physical symptoms.
Psychological and cognitive symptoms that may occur along with aggression
Aggression may accompany other psychological or cognitive symptoms including:
• Anxiety, irritability and agitation
• Confusion or forgetfulness
• Depressed or flat mood
• Difficulty with concentration or attention
• Difficulty with memory, thinking, talking, comprehension, writing or reading
• Hallucinations or delusions
• Heightened arousal or awareness
• Personality changes
• Poor judgment
• Sleep disturbances
• Withdrawal or depression
Other symptoms that may occur along with aggression
Aggression may accompany symptoms related to other body systems including:
• Appetite changes
• Changes in pupil size
• Seizures and tremors
• Unintended weight changes
Serious symptoms that might indicate a life-threatening condition
In some cases, aggression may be a symptom of a life-threatening condition that should be immediately evaluated in an emergency setting. Seek immediate medical care (call 911) if you, or someone you are with, have any of these life-threatening symptoms including:
• Being a danger to yourself or others, including threatening, irrational or suicidal behavior
• Change in mental status or sudden behavior change, such as confusion, delirium, lethargy, hallucinations and delusions
• Trauma, such as bone deformity, burns, eye injuries and other injuries
How is aggressive behavior treated?
To work through aggressive behavior, a person must identify the primary cause and underlying factors.
The most common way to treat or reduce aggressive behavior is psychotherapy. One method is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), which teaches a person how to control his or her behavior. It can also help a person to develop coping mechanisms and the ability to assess behavioral consequences. Talk therapy can help a person understand the causes of aggression and work through those feelings.
These therapies help people regulate emotion, identify triggers, and develop coping skills.