What is Aggressive Behavior?
Aggressive behavior may be defined as unpredictable, impulsive behavior that often involves violent, angry or harmful actions. This type of behavior may be physical or verbal. When someone acts aggressively, he or she may lash out by hitting, pushing, kicking, pulling, hurting or even biting the person.
Breaking, throwing, damaging and destroying personal belongings such as household items, your property or car is also characteristic of aggressive behavior. The aggressive individual may often use verbal abuse, threaten, intimidate, swear, rant or rave. Aggressive behavior often occurs when the person feels he or she is being provoked as a result of internal or external factors.
Levels of aggression vary from person to person – it could be part of a short outburst or long and intense with severe repercussions. While aggressive behavior may be intentional, it may also be unintentional – this is usually evident if the aggressive behavior is the result of a behavioral or mental disorder. If aggressive behavior is left untreated, it can worsen and bring about unwanted harm and distress for those involved.
The symptoms and signs of aggressive behavior are often associated with:
- Anger and hostility
- Temper flares that involve screaming, shouting or using obscene gestures
- Violent behavior
- Intimidating body language used to bully or dominate someone
What Causes Aggressive Behavior?
A number of factors may be responsible for the increased risk of aggressive behavior in both children and adults and these include:
- Hereditary factors
- History of violent or aggressive behavior
- Exposure to violence at home, in the community or from the media
- Use of drugs and alcohol
- Being a victim of physical or sexual abuse
- Socio-economic factors (poverty, unemployment, divorce or single parenting)
- Presence of weapon such as firearms in the home
- Behavioral conditions such as ADHD, Tourettes syndrome, bipolar disorder, ODD, PTSD)
Usually the person who exhibits aggressive behavior is suffering from deeper emotional issues such as fear, insecurity, feelings of isolation, loneliness or despair. Acting out or blowing off steam by being aggressive is sometimes the only way they know how to give vent to their feelings. Children displaying aggressive behavior may become anti-social, have adjustment problems or develop learning disorders.
Diagnosing Aggressive Behavior
The diagnosis of aggressive behavior is based on the symptoms presented, thorough physical examination and review of the individual’s medical history. Certain diagnostic tests such as blood tests, x-rays, or scans may be performed to rule out other illnesses. The doctor will also look for signs of any other conditions that are associated with aggressive behavior such as ADHD, learning disability, depression, mood disorders, anxiety disorders, or conduct disorder.
A referral to a mental health professional, such as a psychologist or psychiatrist, for a more comprehensive evaluation is often recommended. The diagnosis will be based on reports of the individual’s behavior from his or her spouse, parents and teachers, clinical observations of the individual’s behavior and psychological testing.
Help for Aggressive Behavior
Treating and preventing aggressiveness verbal behavior and phyiscal violence generally depends on underlying causes and severity of the individual’s problem. Many developmental, personality and psychiatric disorders (ADHD, developmental disorders, bipolar disorder, PTSD, Tourette’s syndrome) associated with aggressive behavior may be treated with various medications. Medications include mood stabilizers (lithium), anticonvulsants, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and beta blockers to treat symptoms associated with aggressive behavior.
Consult a mental health professional if you, your child or a member of your family starts to display aggressive behavior. There are various individual and group interventions such as psychotherapy, anger management, communication skills training, or self control training to help control aggressive behaviors. Incorporating relaxation techniques such as deep breathing exercises, visualization techniques, repeating positive affirmations, meditation or yoga into your lifestyle can make a significant difference in reducing aggressive behavior.
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More Information on Aggressive Behavior
There are a number of helpful ways to manage and prevent
aggressive behavior and includes:
- Recognize what triggers your aggression, what your physical and emotional reactions are and then record it in a journal
- Stay as calm as possible and try not to react to person, situation or circumstances
- Change the way you think and replace them with positive thoughts
- Find a good listener – speak to a friend or family member who will listen and help you put things in perspective
- As you feel yourself becoming aggressive, remove yourself from the situation – get some fresh air, go for a walk or to a quiet place
- Learn to channel your anger and aggression into something that will make you feel better. Try exercising, hitting a punch bag, running, aerobics, kickboxing or dancing to release those negative emotions
- Release aggression by shouting – go somewhere you can be alone and let it out, "Aaaaaaarrrrggggghhhhh!!!!!!!’
- Practice deep breathing exercises, close your eyes and visualize a positive experience until you feel calm
- Set a good example for your children by always behaving appropriately, giving them lots of love and attention, never hitting them or exposing them to violent situations or behaviors
- Reduce aggression by meditating, doing yoga or having a relaxing massage